According to the researchers, the findings could aid in the development of strategies to improve head impact safety in youth soccer.
“To play soccer, headers are an absolutely essential component to the game. As a result, it is critical to recognise and understand the differences in header frequency and magnitude across practise and game environments “Jillian Urban, from the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was the study’s lead author.
“Practices are more adaptable to change than games, which is a good thing. To improve head impact safety in sports, it is critical to understand how we can restructure practise to reduce head impact exposure while still teaching the fundamental skills required to play the sport safely “According to a news release from the American Academy of Neurology, Urban explained.
Her research team followed eight soccer players between the ages of 14 and 15 for two seasons as part of the study. During all practises and games, each player wore a custom-fitted mouthpiece sensor, and the researchers used a time-synchronized camera to record all activities on the field and pinpoint head impacts.
Impacts per player per hour (impact rate) and the amount of time soccer players spent participating in specific types of activities during practises and games were tracked by study authors during practises and games. Head impact rates varied depending on the activity, ranging from 0.5 per player hour to 13.7 per player hour on average.
A head impact rate of 13.7 per player hour was found to be associated with technical drills such as heading the ball, practising ball control, and dribbling. A head impact per player hour during team interaction activities such as small-sided games in practise was associated with an average rate of 0.5 head impacts per player hour; during games, the average rate was 1.3 head impacts per player hour.
A second aspect of the study was the average rotational head motion, which was measured in radians per second squared (rad/s2). More severe head impacts were indicated by higher numbers. Technical training was associated with an average magnitude of 550 rad/s2, team interaction was associated with an average magnitude of 910 rad/s2, and games were associated with an average magnitude of 1,490 rad/s2, according to the findings.
They will be presented on July 30 and 31 at the Sports Concussion Conference, which is sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Until such research has been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it is considered preliminary.
‘If the goal is to reduce the number of head impacts that a young soccer player may sustain on the field, our findings suggest that targeting technical training drills and how they are distributed throughout the season may be the most effective strategy,’ said Urban. For those looking to reduce the likelihood of players suffering head impacts of greater magnitude, the best bet may be to examine factors associated with high-magnitude head impacts that can occur during scrimmages and games, according to the researchers.