For soccer players the beautiful game has a scary side

by | Mar 18, 2020 | Feature, Sports, Varsity

Nate Marksman, Sports Reporter

Soccer is considered to be the most popular game in the world. But the beautiful game has a worrisome side to it. It’s a sport that is a leader in concussion injuries, particularly among women.

The ball is on the ground for a majority of a game, but when the ball pops up in the air after a player strikes for a goal or wants to switch the ball across the field, players find themselves using their head. And that raises the possibility players colliding for a 50-50 ball, a goal post or the ground.

Those impacts can cause a concussion.

Taylor Thomson, a defender for the Humber women’s varsity soccer teams that have won three Ontario Collegiate Athletic Association silvers and a bronze, knows this all too well.

She suffered concussions twice, the first time when an opposing player kneed her in the head and the second from heading the ball.

“The scariest part for me is the symptoms you develop, (not knowing) whether they are just short or long term,” Thomson said.

“Every concussion is unique in their own way and everyone will be impacted differently. My concussion has already lasted almost four months now and symptoms come and go,” the fourth-year player said.

Fourth-year women’s soccer defender Taylor Thomson suffered two concussions during match games. (Humber Athletics)

The impacts from both concussions left her with retro and post-traumatic amnesia.

Concussions are caused by a sudden impact that forces a quick movement of the head and the brain to move within the skull. According to Canada Soccer, women players have higher rates of concussion.

Health Canada reports about 14,000 men and about 9,000 women suffered sports-related concussions based on emergency room statistics in 2016-17. In Canada, most concussions occur in rugby, hockey and ringette, followed by soccer. Globally, women’s soccer is fifth among the major sports, while men’s soccer is sixth in match play.

Thomson explained the care she needed to take while concussed.

“When concussed it is important to follow protocol. Rest in a dark room and relax the mind. I can say, my personal experience, it is easier said than done,” she said.

She is visiting two different doctors to monitor her condition, an optometrist to help with her vision problems and a neurologist who monitors her overall stability.

Her coaches have witnessed injuries before and understand the gravity of what a concussion can mean for their players.

“My immediate reaction is to know if they are okay and the severity of the concussion,” said Jose Caro, assistant coach of the women’s varsity soccer team.

“As a coach, we are to ensure any head injury or possible concussion is appropriately address by us and the athletic therapy team on-site,” he said.

Caro said it’s important to aid players who are dealing with any type of injury.

“As a coach we are to be strong for our players and ensure that we are there every step of the way to make the athlete feel they are not alone and are fully supported through this process,” he said.