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Headbutting in soccer causes brain injury, study shows

Soccer is a popular sport in New York among both children and adults. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and provides good teamwork skills to those who play. However, soccer -- like other sports -- can be dangerous to players. Aside from the obvious injuries like sprained ankles and pulled muscles, serious players are also at risk of sustaining brain injuries.

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine here in New York found out recently that heading a soccer ball repeatedly can cause a head injury in players that is similar to a concussion. Unsurprisingly, the players who practiced and competed most often had the highest risk of brain damage.

Practice, the researchers found, was the main cause of the injuries. In games, players only head the ball a few times, but in practice, they can end up heading the ball 30 times or more. Researchers said the effects were most noticeable in players who headed the ball more than 1,800 times per year. Affected players showed signs of memory loss as well as some changes in their brains. 

Brain injuries in football players and hockey players have made national headlines in the last few years, but little attention has been paid to soccer players. As we begin to learn more about the potential dangers of certain sports through studies like this one, hopefully coaches will take measures to ensure the safety of players both young and old. Brain injuries can cause long-lasting damage that no athelete should have to endure. 

Source: Voice of America, "Study: Repeated Heading Causes Brain Injury in Soccer Players," Jessica Berman, June 12, 2013

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