Reducing the risks of concussions

December 8, 2015

By Alex Branch

Daniel Clearfield

 

More children will run onto soccer fields this spring with instructions not to head the ball – a change that a Health Science Center sports medicine physician calls a wise step toward reducing concussions.

The United States Soccer Federation announced new safety guidelines last month that prohibit players age 10 and younger from heading the ball. The guidelines also limit headers in practice for ages 11 to 13.

The regulations – resulting from a class-action lawsuit alleging negligence in treatment of players’ head injuries – are mandatory for U.S. Soccer youth national teams and academies. For other associations and programs, they are only recommendations.

“Those of us in the sports medicine field have been on board with guidelines like these for years,” Daniel Clearfield, DO, a certified sports medicine and concussion specialist at the Health Science Center. “At the youth level, it definitely has the potential to reduce the risk of concussions on the field.”

Dr. Clearfield, who has served as a volunteer sports medicine physician at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, said youths’ brains are still developing and are suspended in their heads in a way that leaves more potential to “slosh around” and become concussed.

Youths also lack the neck and core strength to properly strike the ball with their heads, he said.

“To head the ball properly you use your core muscles to distribute the energy throughout your body, not just smack it so your head absorbs the impact,” Dr. Clearfield said. “But young people have weaker necks and often lack the muscular development to distribute the energy.”

The potential cumulative effects of heading the ball also is a concern, Dr. Clearfield said. Organized sports such as football have started focusing on the impact of sub-concussive blows, or microdamage. This can occur during repetitive head impacts that do not cause a concussion, but can still potentially cause long-term changes to the brain’s function.

These sub-concussive blows also can occur when players head a soccer ball, he said.

“It’s like if you get a stress fracture while running,” Dr. Clearfield said. “It is not a full-blown fracture, but if you keep running on it, it will turn into a full-blown fracture. If you keep getting sub-concussions, it can turn into a concussion or other long-term brain injury.”

Just like Pop Warner football leagues are teaching new tackling techniques to youths to avoid head injuries, youth soccer leagues are doing the same with heading guidelines, he said.

“From a child’s developmental standpoint, this just makes sense,” he said.

Hsc Tcom Gold Humanism Society Inductees Fc
TCOM Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society welcomes new inductees 

By Steven Bartolotta The humanistic side of medicine is alive and well at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. The TCOM Chapter of the Arnold P Gold Foundation inducted 45 students and four faculty members into the Gold Humanism Honor Society on the campus of The University of North Texas H...Read more

Jun 15, 2021

John Licciardone Hsc Fort Worth Fc
eHealth interventions could help African-American patients in battle with chronic pain

By Steven Bartolotta The PRECISION Pain Research Registry at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth has identified important racial disparities in pain management that became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its study recently published in the special COVID...Read more

Jun 14, 2021

Diana Cervantes. Assistant Professor Biostatistics & Epidemiology
Dr. Diana Cervantes named among Fort Worth’s ‘most influential’ for public health service during the pandemic

By Sally Crocker Dr. Diana Cervantes has spent the last year keeping people informed and updated on all things coronavirus, and now she’s being recognized as one of Fort Worth Inc.’s “400 Most Influential People” for helping protect the community’s health during the pandemic. Dr....Read more

Jun 8, 2021

Opal Lee photo by Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Celebrating Juneteenth

By Diane Smith-Pinckney On June 19 1865, Major General Gordan Granger marched into Galveston with a critical message: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”  This was the opening se...Read more

Jun 8, 2021