Heading Into Danger: The Astonishing Brain Risks of Soccer Kids

Everyone knows that football can lead to brain injuries in kids when the players collide with each other. You may be surprised to learn that there’s another even more popular sport that may be endangering the brains of millions of children: soccer.

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. It’s played by people of all ages, and for millions of kids around the globe, it is an essential part of their daily lives. However, researchers found that children who frequently head the ball in soccer may experience brain abnormalities similar to those seen in kids suffering from concussions (mild traumatic brain injuries).

This raises concern about the potential long-term effects of heading, a key component of the sport, on brain health. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the research behind these findings and what you can do to help protect your child’s brain while they enjoy the beautiful game.

Advanced Imaging Techniques and Cognitive Tests

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University conducted a study using advanced imaging techniques and cognitive tests to examine the effects of heading on young soccer players’ brains.

The study lead, Michael L. Lipton, said: “Our study provides compelling preliminary evidence that brain changes resembling mild traumatic brain injury are associated with frequently heading a soccer ball over many years.”

While additional research is needed, the findings from this study suggest that controlling the amount of heading that people do may help prevent brain injury that frequent heading appears to cause.

Cumulative Damage from Repeated Sub-concussive Impacts

The impact from a single heading is unlikely to cause traumatic brain damage, such as laceration of nerve fibers. However, scientists have worried that cumulative damage from the repeated sub-concussive impacts of heading might be clinically significant.

According to Lipton, “Repetitive heading could set off a cascade of responses that leads to degeneration of brain cells over time.”

This means that the more a child heads the ball while playing soccer, the higher the risk of developing long-term brain damage. This is a cause for concern for not only young players but also for parents and coaches who care about their children’s health and well-being.

What Can Be Done to Protect Children’s Brains?

With these research findings in mind, it’s essential to take steps to help protect the brains of young soccer players. Here are a few suggestions on what you can do:

1. Limit the amount of heading in practice and games. By reducing how often a child heads the ball, you can minimize the potential damage to their brain. Consider modifying practice routines to focus more on foot skills and less on heading. For younger players, consider banning heading altogether.

2. Encourage the use of protective gear. Some companies have developed headgear specifically designed for soccer players to provide some protection to the head and brain during contact. Encourage your child to wear this gear during practices and games to help reduce the risk of injury.

3. Learn to recognize the signs of a concussion. If your child experiences a blow to the head during a soccer game or practice, it’s crucial to know the symptoms of a concussion. These can include headache, dizziness, confusion, and sensitivity to light or noise. If any of these signs are present, seek medical attention immediately.

4. Educate players, coaches, and parents about the risks. It’s essential for everyone involved in youth soccer to be aware of the potential dangers of heading the ball. Ensure that coaches are knowledgeable about the risks, and educate parents and players about the importance of proper technique and safety precautions.


Soccer is a wonderful sport that teaches teamwork, discipline, and physical fitness. But with the research indicating potential brain damage from repetitive heading, it’s crucial to take the necessary precautions to protect our young athletes.

By limiting the amount of heading in practice and games, using protective gear, recognizing the signs of concussion, and educating everyone involved in youth soccer about the risks, we can help ensure that our kids enjoy the beautiful game while keeping their brains healthy and safe.