April 30th, 2018
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. And participation is rising in the United States, where it’s widely considered a safer alternative to other contact sports like football, which is facing heightened scrutiny as media coverage of brain injuries among NFL players has trained a spotlight on the sport’s risks.
But soccer players still have one of the highest head injury rates in sports: one study indicated that more than 60 percent of soccer players reported concussion symptoms annually. Concussion rates for girls' soccer rival those in boys’ football.
Soccer headgear could help prevent some of those injuries, according to ratings just released by the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. These are the first independent ratings to evaluate the performance of protective headgear for soccer players.
The lab's rating system grades safety equipment on a five-star scale, giving consumers a straightforward way to discriminate between different models on the basis of how well they reduce head-injury risk.
The 22 models tested earned ratings ranging from two to five.
Though performance varied widely, the results demonstrated that some headgear were very effective: Three models earned the top score of five stars, which translates to a reduction in concussion risk of at least 70 percent for the impacts tested.
“There’s a risk of injury in any sport, but protective equipment can reduce that risk significantly,” said Steve Rowson, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics and the lab’s director. “Our job is to get independent, evidence-based information out there to players, coaches, and parents, so that they can choose the equipment that’s most effective. More people play soccer than any other sport, so we’re thrilled to have these ratings out.”