When the topic of sports-related concussions is brought up, male football players come to mind. However, a new study reported that an alarming number of concussions were occurring among female middle-school soccer players. The study was reported online on January 20 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.
The study authors note that awareness of sports concussion has increased markedly in recent years; however, research on concussions among middle-school athletes is extremely limited. Therefore, they conducted a study to evaluate the frequency and duration of concussions in young female soccer players; in addition, they evaluated whether concussions resulted in the girl quitting the game and seeking medical attention. The study group comprised 351 female soccer players who were members of soccer clubs in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. From March 2008 through May 2012, girls aged 11 to 14 years, from 33 randomly selected soccer teams were evaluated. Among the players contacted, 83.1% participated and 92.4% completed the study.
The investigators measured the number of concussions that occurred during the study period. In addition, they obtained information regarding the number, type, and duration of concussion symptoms. On a weekly basis, they questioned the girls regarding concussion symptoms and, if present, they inquired regarding the symptom type and duration, the event resulting in symptom onset, and whether the girl obtained medical attention or played while the symptoms were present.
The researchers found that, among the 351 soccer players, 59 concussions occurred during 43,742 athletic exposure hours. The cumulative concussion incidence was 13.0% per season; the incidence rate was 1.2 per 1,000 athletic exposure hours. On average, the symptoms lasted for four days. Heading the ball accounted for 30.5% of concussions. Players with the following symptoms took a longer time to recover than girls without these symptoms: light sensitivity (16.0 vs. 3.0 days), emotional lability (mood swings; 15.0 vs. 3.5 days), noise sensitivity (12.0 vs. 3.0 days), memory loss (9.0 vs. 4.0 days, P = .04), nausea (9.0 vs. 3.0 days), and concentration problems (7.0 vs. 2.0 days). The majority of the players (58.6%) continued to play with symptoms; among that group, 44.1% received medical attention.
The authors concluded that concussion rates in young female soccer players are higher than those reported in older age groups; furthermore, most of the girls who suffer a concussion report playing while the symptoms are present. Heading the ball was a frequent cause of concussions among the study group. The noted that, sadly, awareness of recommendations to not play and seek medical attention is lacking for this age group.