Girls With Head Injury Five Times Likelier Than Boys to Resume Soccer Game

That's not necessarily a good thing: 50 of 50 American states have enacted laws to protect athletes from their own stoicism

The high school girls' team of Sakhnin, Israel, starting a training session.
The high school girls' team of Sakhnin, Israel, starting a training session. Yaron Kaminsky

Adolescent girls who suffered concussion on the soccer field were five times more likely to resume playing that same day than boys, a study done in Texas found.

This seeming toughness is less cause for pride than might be thought, once you consider that their stoicism makes the girls more likely to develop worse injury, doctors caution.

The study looked at adolescents, average age 14, and found two things worthy of note. It is not a large study, just 87 kids diagnosed with a soccer-related concussion.

One: The girls were a lot more likely than the boys to suffer concussion on the playing field. Of the 87 concussed soccer players, two-thirds were girls.

Two: Of the injured girls, more than half, just under 52%, went back to the game, or played in practice later that same day. Of the third of injuries who were boys, 17% went back. (The kids were treated at a pediatric sports medicine clinic in Texas.)

"The girl soccer players were five times more likely than boys to return to play on the same day as their concussion," spelled out Dr. Shane M. Miller, a fellow in the American Academy of Pediatrics and senior author of the paper.

The rub is that doctors tell them not to. A soccer player with a head injury should not leap back into the game any more than he would with a broken leg.

"Consistent with our findings in other sports, young soccer players are returning to play on the same day despite recommendations from medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, and laws in all 50 states intended to protect their growing brains," Miller pointed out. The problem is cultural, in his view: the shame of yielding to injury supersedes common sense, let alone the law.

Since the law hasn't worked and neither has coaxing by the school, lead author Aaron Zynda urges parents to get involved. That always works. The end.

School girls competing for the ball during a Dreamfields project, Orange Farm township, south of Johannesburg, May 8, 2010.
Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

Some short stats on soccer injuries

A 15-year survey done in 2015 found that the five most common soccer injuries – in men – are: sprained ankle (17% of all soccer injuries), torn hamstring, hernia (you know where), torn knee ligaments, and then, concussion, which is less likely to be caused by running into the perimeter wall and more likely to be caused by running into another players' head.

In fact it's long known that women have higher incidence of concussion in sports than men. Why? A rather bigger study, published in 2015 in Science Daily looked at 1,203 Columbia students - 822 men and 381 women who played mainly soccer, basketball and football.

That study found that women were 50 percent more likely to have a concussion than men, including in soccer. A study by orthopedics published this very year, 2017, found that American high school girls in general, including athletes and especially soccer players, suffer much more concussion injury than boys. The doctors did not care to speculate why beyond wondering if girls were not using protective gear.