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Study: Soccer Players Could Also Be Susceptible To Brain Injury

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Louisiana residents probably associate traumatic brain injury with American football, but it appears that soccer - known as football throughout the world - can also cause serious head trauma. Physicians have sadly announced the first case of a soccer player suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which was discovered in the 29-year-old man's brain during autopsy. That player had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, because of repeated brain injury. According to the Team Gleason site, that is the same condition that affects the well-known former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason.

Researchers said that the soccer player's brain showed extensive damage to the frontal lobe. That type of brain injury is most commonly seen in football players. However, researchers said that the discovery makes sense, because the soccer player likely used that portion of his body for "heading" the ball.

The scientists behind the evaluation say they cannot definitively correlate the man's penchant for headers with the fact that he developed ALS. However, the research does raise questions and sheds more light on the issue of concussions in soccer. Even modest head strikes can accumulate to significant brain trauma over the course of a season. About one in eight girls ages 11 to 14 will suffer a concussion each season.

The ubiquity of soccer is causing some concern among community members, including the mother of the player who perished from the disease. She said she hopes children and their parents weigh the consequences of the continued brain trauma involved in the sport now that scientists understand more about the injury.

Athletes deserve to be informed about their injury risk. Further, coaches and trainers have a responsibility to follow concussion protocol to protect their players. Athletes who believe they have been misled by team staff may be eligible for financial compensation for their brain injury.

Source: AL.com, "Brain disease is linked to soccer, raises questions about headers" Jon Solomon, Feb. 27, 2014

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