Soccer playing, your brain and concussions

By Dr. Alan Kadish NMD

So you play soccer and hit the ball with your head, as well as the occasional collision with other team members. Does it matter ? Well the answer is yes and it’s probably a bigger deal than you think.

A new study, published in the January journal of Neurology, did a study of 222 adult soccer players. It was a mixed gender group with the majority being male. The study was prompted after the authors read previous work that suggested that there was little concussion concerns and limited unintentional head contact in adolescence. Contrary to these previous studies, 35 percent reported one unintentional head impact with 16 percent reporting more than one impact. The key is that the odds ration, your potential of having a  neurological problem after the collision, for even one head trauma is ~300+% higher  than someone who has not hit their head and if you have even two head impacts 600% more probability of symptoms …..yech !

A significant number of players who use their head and contact the ball and other head impacts are frequently experiencing classic concussion symptoms, even minimally. These can include headaches, dizziness, and confusion during and after games and practice. One of the big problems, is that most players are not properly diagnosed, with a concussion. The additive problem, in this situation is that with additional impacts that are not so infrequently found, the damage to the brain is cumulative and can become a serious health issue.

Multiply the potential for long term consequence with head trauma if your still forming a brain. That includes all of those under ~23 years of age. This is the median age at which time most of our brain connections are made, pruned and functioning as they would for our lifetime. By causing injury early the brain does a host of remodeling that many result is your lacking the ability to maximize your cognitive and other functions. How can we encourage education when we change the brain structures with injury ? 

Solutions….. well you could play another sport that does not involve head trauma, wear a helmet for partial protection, or give up your brain function and recognize that full consequence of your actions. As we gain more information on the effects of even mild concussions it’s become very clear that you’re putting yourself at a much higher risk for not only the short term problems but also long term issues such as dementia and other neurological disorders.

Yes  soccor and most sports are great for your body and exercise is really a necessary component for good health. Finding the right mix and being as careful as possible is essential if you value your brain. Did you know that ping pong is one of the safest and great means of getting and keeping your eye/hand coordination in tip top shape ?  How about a gym class with dancing or ……..

Speaking of your brain, how do you know if it’s working well ? At the Center of Health we have a game like testing method along with other tools and can do an effective, scientific  brain evaluation that can give you tools to address changes years ahead of problems. Ever heard of the 5 P’s ? Prior planning prevents poor performance…… is as true with your brain as any other part of your body.

Call us at the Center of Health and let’s do a brain check up. 541.773.3191 


Symptoms from repeated intentional and unintentional head impact in soccer players

Walter F. Stewart, PhD, MPH,Namhee Kim, PhD, PhD,Chloe S. Ifrah, BA,Richard B. Lipton, MD,Tamar A. Bachrach, BA,Molly E. Zimmerman, PhD,Mimi Kim, ScD andMichael L. Lipton, MD, PhD

  1. Neurology 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003657


Objective: To determine the rate and differential contribution of heading vs unintentional head impacts (e.g., head to head, goal post) to CNS symptoms in adult amateur soccer players.

Methods: Amateur soccer players completed baseline and serial on-line 2-week recall questionnaires (HeadCount) and reported (1) soccer practice and games, (2) heading and unintentional soccer head trauma, and (3) frequency and severity (mild to very severe) of CNS symptoms. For analysis, CNS symptoms were affirmed if one or more moderate, severe, or very severe episodes were reported in a 2-week period. Repeated measures logistic regression was used to assess if 2-week heading exposure (i.e., 4 quartiles) or unintentional head impacts (i.e., 0, 1, 2+) were associated with CNS symptoms.

Results: A total of 222 soccer players (79% male) completed 470 HeadCount questionnaires. Mean (median) heading/2 weeks was 44 (18) for men and 27 (9.5) for women. One or more unintentional head impacts were reported by 37% of men and 43% of women. Heading-related symptoms were reported in 20% (93 out of 470) of the HeadCounts. Heading in the highest quartile was significantly associated with CNS symptoms (odds ratio

[OR] 3.17, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.57–6.37) when controlling for unintentional exposure. Those with 2+ unintentional exposures were at increased risk for CNS symptoms (OR 6.09, 95% CI 3.33–11.17) as were those with a single exposure (OR 2.98, 95% CI 1.69–5.26) when controlling for heading.

Conclusions: Intentional (i.e., heading) and unintentional head impacts are each independently associated with moderate to very severe CNS symptoms.

  • Received June 15, 2016.
  • Accepted in final form November 7, 2016.


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Dr. Kadish is an unusual physician often referred to as a "doctor detective". His expertise is the evaluation and treatment of complex disorders, typically after other physicians have been stumped, is renowned. He provides care for all family members and has additional training in autistic spectrum disorders and chronic complex diseases.