Concussions are everywhere in sports. Athletes at all levels in every sport are at risk for concussions, and that is no less true of soccer (what the rest of the world calls “football”) than it is for the NFL.
Thousands of athletes have suffered concussions, and thousands of them will go on to struggle with simple activities during the rest of their lives — many will never even receive the diagnosis.
Jimmy Conrad, who used to be a defender in the MLS, had to end his career early because of concussions. Fortunately, he got out early enough that the worst effects he suffers now are occasional headaches. Others have been less lucky.
Taylor Twellman, former MVP, has been unable to so much as work out in over three years. Although he now works for ESPN, he is completely unable to do any physical exercise that gets his heart rate over 125 without having post-concussion symptoms. In response to this, he has created a foundation to help fight concussions and educate players.
The focus on concussions and how dangerous they are has all been on the NFL thanks to the lawsuits that thousands of former players have now joined, but the new efforts to fight against concussions should focus on the health of all athletes. Women’s soccer has a concussion rate that is second only to football.
As with football, however, the question is how do you create a safe environment for players without changing the fundamentals of the game. Heading the ball is integral to the play of the game and, though there have been calls for it, it is unclear if adding helmets would help prevent concussions.