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Head Injuries, Heading, and the Use of Headgear in Soccer

Niedfeldt, Mark W. MD

doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e318237be53
Competitive Sports and Pain Management

Soccer has more than 265 million players around the world and is the only contact sport with purposeful use of the head for controlling and advancing the ball. Head contact in soccer has the potential to cause acute traumatic brain injury including concussion or, potentially, a pattern of chronic brain injury. Although early retrospective research on the effects of soccer heading seemed to suggest that purposeful heading may contribute to long-term cognitive impairment, prospective controlled studies do not support this and, in fact, suggest that purposeful heading may not be a risk factor for cognitive impairment. Headgear has not been shown to be effective in reducing ball impact but may be helpful in reducing the force of non-ball-related impacts to the head. There are concerns that universal use of headgear may cause more aggressive heading and head challenges, leading to increased risk of injury.

Medical College of Wisconsin, Mequon, WI.

Address for correspondence: Mark W. Niedfeldt, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin, 10556 N. Port Washington Road, Suite 101, Mequon, WI (E-mail:

© 2011 American College of Sports Medicine