Can the head of a football cause a concussion?

You have probably seen a lot of head-butting during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, i.e. hitting the soccer ball with your head to pass or shoot. USWNT midfielder Julie Ertz and forward Carli Lloyd both scored with headers in the 3-0 win over Chile. You may also have seen striker Alex Morgan score a goal in the USA’s historic 13-0 game against Thailand (she scored five goals that game, NBD). These headers look really bad from the viewer’s perspective – especially when you hear (and practically feel) the impact – so POPSUGAR sought the expertise of Dennis Cardone, DOsports medicine specialist and co-director of the NYU Langone Concussion Center, to learn more about the risks.

Can the head of a football cause a concussion?

There’s definitely a risk of getting a concussion from a header, Dr Cardone said, but you’re more likely to get it from colliding with another player in the process. “Of course when you look at the data, most concussions happen to the head, but it’s not head-to-ball contact, it’s head-to-head contact,” he said. Explain. Although a 2018 study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggested that frequent headers do, in fact, affect cognitive function more than these collisions.

In 2015, the United States Soccer Federation prohibits children 10 and under from directing the ball in training and matches. He advised coaches to limit headers for 11- and 12-year-olds, in line with US Youth Soccer rules published the following year (and this is consistent with the most recent policies). “A big part of that is to better enforce the rules of football and for players to understand the rules of football,” said Dr Cardone, adding that contact between players should also come under more scrutiny.

What is the safest way to direct a soccer ball?

To minimize potential injury, Dr Cardone said players should stabilize their neck and torso to reduce rotational forces (rotation of the head is a leading cause of concussion). Dr Cardone noted that patients are also more likely to seek medical attention not because they deliberately headed a soccer ball, but because they were unexpectedly kicked by it. This is where neck stability comes in – they weren’t ready for impact.

Practice makes perfect, Dr. Cardone told us, and “in stabilizing the torso is what protects the head and neck.” The crown of your head is the most sensitive area – which is why, he said, football players, for example, are told not to tackle with their heads down. Impact to this vulnerable area leads to “more catastrophic neck injuries as well as potential concussions,” he said.

Heading in football is normally done from the front and lateral regions of the head (this coach suggests using your hairline). Hitting the ball from these areas is “more protective”, Dr Cardone said. Ahead, check out the headers we mentioned earlier (I highly recommend watching Ertz’s goal on repeat!). Headers may look hurtful – and there’s always the risk of injury – but these players have been training their whole lives, so hopefully they know how to do it in the safest way possible.