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Youth Soccer Concussions: What Part Does Fear Play?


I got kicked in the head a few weeks ago! Yep, my 41 year old self, kicked in the head while coaching our U-14 Boys Academy Goalkeepers. I hopped in goal because we needed an additional keeper. Next thing I know, a boy is dribbling towards me, takes a touch a bit too far in front of him – and I am instinctively making a breakaway save at his feet. Clearly, I am a bit slower to the ground than I was 20 years ago…and BAM!….Cleat to my forehead!

The blood was not too bad (just a surface scrape, really)….However, what made it almost unbearable was the comment from the boy that kicked me:

”Sorry, Ma’am.”

I quickly decided to give his Southern upbringing a break…but broke out in a big smile when one of the other boys quickly chimed in with a:

“She’s not a Ma’am, She’s a Coach!”

This is not, however, a commentary on the unusual benefits of women coaching boys. This is about a much more serious topic, and one that I thought about as a result of my recent kick to the noggin – CONCUSSIONS.

I am not a doctor.

I am not a trainer.

I do not want to talk about the medical side of a concussion diagnosis as I am not qualified to do so. I want to discuss how our kids are feeling about concussions.

There is a palpable fear and apprehension many children are feeling as a direct result of the media attention surrounding the increase in diagnosis of concussions. Many players, boys and girls, are genuinely scared they will get a concussion.

I think it’s safe to say that, thankfully, recently established Concussion Protocols are working and parents, athletic trainers, coaches and doctors now have specific guidelines about when it’s appropriate to Return to Play.

I think it’s also safe to say that FEAR IS RESULTING IN MORE CONCUSSION DIAGNOSES. I think this is happening in two ways:

  • I think some diagnoses are inaccurate and the result of the fear a player genuinely has regarding the real possibility of having a traumatic brain injury.
  • I think some players have fear/trepidation while playing and this leads to more injuries because fear can often result in improper technique.

I DEFINITELY believe we must ALWAYS err on the side of extreme caution with the health and welfare of our children. Obviously we’d all prefer an over-diagnosis of concussions than an under-diagnosis!

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  • As parents we must let our children know we are educated about the subject and will take care of them.
  • As parents we should have our child go through a Baseline Concussion Test such as the ImPaCT Test when they are healthy so we establish a baseline for Return to Play.
  • As parents we must encourage our players to use proper technique and to not back out of challenges.
  • As parents we must talk to our children about concussions and address any issues they may have.

How would YOU respond to what I experienced while on the bench of an ECNL game?

There was a FANTASTIC defensive header of a clearance from one of our players. She jumped higher than everyone with impressive body control and focus. She headed the ball with perfect technical form 15 yards down the field away from pressure. As coaches, we looked at each other with sideways glances for a moment, sharing a “Wow, that was amazing” look.

The comment, however, from a girl on the bench:

“Wow, she’s going to have a concussion.”

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Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com
Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

  • Skye, great commentary. I see one of the biggest issues is our student athletes not wanting to report true symptoms because of the fear of being held out. Just today while evaluating an athlete her teammate simple said “Remember $&#/! Out ten weeks.” We as parents and medical providers need to educate athletes why these decisions are being made in terms of management and recovery.

    The use of computer based concussion testing is the gold standard but there is significant value is sideline paper tests like the SCAT2 or SCAT3 as an indication of potential head injury and often times simple placing the athlete in this test battery is enough for our athletes to realize things aren’t right when they can do simple tasks.

    And the last very important question is, Did you make the save?

  • Thanks, Ed, for providing some perspective from the viewpoint of an experienced soccer Athletic Trainer!….I suppose as more and more studies are released regarding long term issues related to concussions athletes will gain more perspective on the impact a concussion can have and therefore the importance of proper treatment.

    So many injuries can be subjective based on a person’s pain tolerance….Fortunately the SCAT tests and computer tests are not subjective….As there’s nothing subjective about a concussion!

    BTW, Heck yeah, I made the save!!! I can’t believe I didn’t mention that in my post! :-))

  • As the parent of a player who received a concussion playing soccer- where her life was drastically altered for 6+ months, I got this question often, “you aren’t going to let her play anymore, are you?!”

    I realize it was a serious injury and of course I don’t want her to go through it again.

    But she loves the game. She’s back on the field with no fear. I work hard at not letting her sense my fear. If she is badly injured again, the decision to allow her to return will be much more difficult.

    I say a little prayer to the universe to keep her safe every time she steps on the field …more than I did before the concussion. GAME ON!

  • I have many players on my G u12 who shy away from most challenges for the ball not realizing they are more likely to be hurt with a 25% commitment than 100% commitment to challenge. Not sure if this can be coached away or if it is innate quality that can only improve with time.

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