Chicago (USA) (EFE).- It is estimated that every 20 soccer games, a player suffers a potentially dangerous head trauma. Educating, preventing and acting quickly are the keys to minimizing risks. A ‘medical VAR’ interrupts MLS matches if necessary. Children under the age of 10 do not train headbutting in the US. Referents from American sports medicine analyze the latest techniques to preserve the health of athletes at a round table with EFE in Chicago.
Depression, anxiety, dementia, concentration problems are just some of the long-term consequences that blows to the head can have in the life of an athlete. Recognizing trauma and treating it appropriately is decisive. A recent study showed that reduced pace training promotes neurological recovery in players with concussion symptoms.
Margot Putukian, George Chiampas and Cindy Chang, medical directors respectively for MLS, USSF and NWSL, have been working on the prevention and cure of head trauma in sports for more than ten years. They collaborate with doctors from the Premier League and the English Football Federation (FA) and brought together 35 neurology, psychology and sports experts in Chicago this week for a seminar on head injuries.
The ‘medical var’
The MLS innovated in 2017 by introducing what is called ‘Medical VAR’, a team responsible for monitoring through different cameras if potentially problematic head contacts occur during matches and for notifying the referees.
Like the VAR, the doctors follow the game remotely and contact the health team present in the stadium if necessary.
“Having more eyes helps. Sometimes the referee is far from the crash zone and having another professional send you information helps prevent more serious injuries,” Putukian said in a conversation with EFE.
Psychological support to the athlete
In the vast majority of cases, athletes who suffer head trauma insist with their doctors to let them continue.
Their competitive mindset, culture of overcoming injury, money issues, career ambitions and loyalty to teammates are some of the factors that often trigger this reaction in athletes.
However, the victim of a head trauma does not have the immediate ability to understand his real state of health and therefore the final decision on his continuation must be the sole responsibility of the doctor.
The external pressure is high and for this reason the USSF, the MLS and the NWSL organize meetings with the clubs prior to the start of the seasons to make clear the measures that will be taken in cases of trauma.
“Those incidents are going to happen at some point, but if there is a relationship of trust, everyone understands what the key values are. In the USSF, MLS and NWSL we show that we are aligned”, said Chiampas.
“The doctor always has the last word, he does not depend on anyone else, neither the coach nor the father, nor the player, only the doctor,” Putukian concluded.
Forbidden to nod for children under 10 years of age
Although the risk of head trauma in soccer is lower compared to sports such as American football, it is estimated that every twenty games a soccer player suffers an injury of this type, with different levels of severity.
The data shows that there are more cleared cases in women’s football and that the main cause is ‘player-player’ clashes, above ‘player-ball’ and ‘player-ground’ contacts. Split high balls represent the type of situation that most causes these injuries.
Experts have spent more than a decade studying these cases and working on ways to prevent and treat them effectively.
In this sense, the USSF took a step forward in 2015, when it prohibited head blows in children under ten years of age and limited the number of impacts for children between the ages of eleven and thirteen.
“More than eight years ago we decided to implement restrictions for headbutts in children under ten years of age. Several associations asked us why we were doing it, but now those same organizations are adopting the same measures. For us, 2015 was a turning point,” Chiampas said in a conversation with EFE at a round table after the Chicago rally.
Training after trauma
A recent American study showed that physical exercise, carried out at a contained pace, gives important benefits in the recovery process after a head trauma, also at a psychological level.
“Exercise is a medicine, it makes the patient feel better. We have clear evidence that total rest is bad and that exercise helps. We always push children to play sports and many times we end up telling them that after a head trauma they will not be able to play. That generates cases of depression, anxiety, ”explains Putukian.
“One of the most beautiful things is that now we can give the message that exercise is good. Obviously we’re not going to put the kid in situations where he can get head trauma, but he can exercise,” she added.
In the United States, this measure began to be used recently, despite the fact that the first theories on the therapeutic use of training came out in 2011. Years of studies were necessary to obtain sufficient evidence that this type of measure actually gives benefits.