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Soccer concussions twice as likely without helmet: study

Adolescent soccer players who don't strap on protective headgear are nearly twice as likely to suffer head injuries, suggests a McGill University researcher.

Adolescent soccer players who don't strap on protective headgear are nearlytwice as likely to suffer head injuries, suggests a McGill University researcher.

Dr. Scott Delaney, research director of emergency medicine at McGill's University Health Centre, followed more than 250 soccer players between the ages of 12 and 17 for the study published in the July issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study found that 53 per cent of adolescents who did not wear headgear had concussions. By comparison, 27 per cent of those wearing safety gear reported suffering the injury.

Delaneyalso found that girls and young women who didn't wear headgear increased the risk of abrasions, lacerations or contusions on the head and face.

"This is the first study of its kind looking outside the laboratory to say that soft protective headgear for soccer significantly decreased the number of concussions for those athletes," Delaney said.

Delaney said he hopes the study will persuade some parents to consider headgear for their children.

Repeated concussions may cause brain damage

Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital and the president of the Think First Foundation of Canada, says athletes may suffer permanent brain damage from repeated concussions.

"[Concussions] occur when two heads bang together, they occur when the head hits the ground, when the head hits the goalpost," he said.

But Jean-Daniel Eigenmann, ofMontreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâcesoccer association, says getting kids to put on the headgear might be difficult.

"It's the same thing as asking the kids to wear visors in hockey when they play junior or triple A level or something like this — nobody wants to because professional players don't do it," he said.

Other experts caution that safety headgear may not be influential in changing rates of injury, noting that some players might be willing to take more risks because they feel protected.