For most footballers, the physical risks are generally few and far between, especially when compared to other sports such as rugby and American football. At the same time, experts agree that concussion in football is a serious threat to many players, and they emphasise that heading may be one of the main causes.
Below, we will outline what heading is and why it is prone to causing concussions in football players. We will also discuss key takeaways about concussions and how they can be spotted and treated.
What Is Heading?
Heading is a football skill that involves making contact with the ball on one’s head in order to transport it to another player, into the opposing team’s goal, or down the field. Heading is an art and certainly requires natural skill, the use of a specific technique, and regular practise.
When a player heads the ball, they must tense up the muscles in their neck, keep their teeth clenched and jaw tight, and use the top portion of their forehead (right around the natural hairline) to make contact with the ball. The aim is to apply force to the ball’s centre and to gain leverage with one’s body by bending the knees and using the abdominal muscles for a source of strength. The chest and back are whipped forward, contact is made, and the ball should go in the direction in which the player is squaring their shoulders.
Who Is Most at Risk for Concussions From Heading?
Young soccer players appear to be at biggest risk of getting a concussion from heading. This is in part because their necks tend to be weaker, and their brains are still developing. Weaker neck muscles may limit their heading abilities, and still-developing brains can make injury more likely.
Younger players are also at higher risk because they may still be getting the hang of the skill of heading to begin with. If they do not use the correct technique, the risk of injury increases.
What Are the Major Signs of a Concussion in Football?
If you believe you’ve been concussed from heading the ball in football, colliding with another player, or being otherwise hit or knocked about in the head, look for the following symptoms of a concussion:
- Being knocked unconscious (this isn’t always necessary for a concussion)
- Clumsy movements
- Sensitivity to light
- Slowness when answering questions
- A confused and dazed look
- Trouble remembering things
- Behaviour changes
- Personality changes
- Radical mood shifts
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sluggish, groggy feelings
- Trouble with balance
- Pressure in the head
- A general or acute headache
What Should You Do if You’ve Had a Concussion?
Naturally, your first step should be to stop whatever you are doing and sit down to rest. You should avoid any physical activity for at least one to two days after a head injury. Abstain from any physical or mental exertion.
Next, make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible. Be thoroughly examined. Monitor yourself closely (and have loved ones help). Unless you notice any suspect symptoms that require follow-up (odd behaviours, extreme sensitivities, trouble sleeping, etc.), you can return to your normal activities after you’ve received the go-ahead from your doctor.
Concussions can happen in a wide array of sports, including football. Heading appears to be one of the main sources of this serious injury. If you play football or have a loved one invested in the game, be sure to take the dangers of heading (and player collisions and other head injuries) into consideration. If you ever suspect a concussion in football, follow the prescribed protocol and see a doctor immediately.