According to the NCAA, concussions account for 9.2% of injuries in women’s soccer. Making them the 2nd most common type of injury behind ankle sprains.
And a study done at North Western University, showed that the incidence of concussion was higher for girls soccer than it was for boys football!
Now, I want you to consider that these numbers are probably lower than the actual numbers, because many concussions go unreported.
This means there is a very real risk for every girl that plays soccer!
My goal for this article isn’t to create fear or take a deep dive into the research. There are plenty of articles out there that do that.
My aim is to show you things that you can do to reduce the risk for the players you coach and for your children.
I’m going to show you simple drills you can impalement during practice sessions or at home.
The drills you’re about to learn have the potential to change your player’s or child’s life.
But before I get to them, I want to highlight a couple of things you might not be aware of.
The first thing I want to point out is that a player doesn’t have to get knocked unconscious to sustain a concussion.
While this is well known in medical circles, most regular people still think you have to get knocked out get a concussion. This isn’t the case.
Concussions can stem from any contact from the head. It could be from an elbow as player jumps up to head the ball.
AND it can also happen as a result of heading the ball.
Concussions can also happen as a result of impacts not directly to the head. When players get hit or fall, the brain can hit the inside of the skull in the same way it does during a whiplash car accident.
The second thing I want to point out is there can be long term consequences to concussions.
While most concussions seem to resolve quickly. Some do not.
AND there’s a cumulative effect. So just because a player feels better after a couple of weeks, it doesn’t mean it isn’t negatively impacting them in the long run.
Considering only a very small percentage of players go on to play at college and an even smaller number play professionally. Coaches have a responsibility to look after players long term health.
Taking 10 extra shots during practice, is a lot less important than spending a few minutes doing preventative work.
Some of what I’m about to show you has been directly proven in the research.
Some of them have been extrapolated from research. And some on based on pure logic about how the brain works.
And the great news is, in addition to helping to protect your players, what you’re about to learn will also help them to become better players.
Training To Reduce The Risk of Concussion
While I can’t cover every possible exercise in this article, I am going to show you different types of exercise that can easily be done as part of a warm up or regular training program.
- Neck Proprioception
- Neck Strengthening
- Basic Peripheral Vision Training
- Advanced Peripheral Vision Training
All of the drills are easy to implement and can be done as part of a warm up prior to practices or at home by the payers
Proprioception is how your body knows where it is space. When your bodies move, receptors in the joints send information back to your brain. And the brain uses this information to create accurate movement.
Having good neck proprioception is important for soccer players for several reasons.
Better neck proprioception improves heading technique, which reduces the likelihood of injury.
Good proprioception in essential in order to have a strong neck. And as your about to learn, having a strong neck is important for reducing concussion risk.
Proprioception is important for good vision. And good vision is important for reducing concussion risk which I’ll also be talking about later.
For all these reasons it’s important that players work on improving their proprioception.
Luckily it’s really easy to do. The video below is going to show you how to do a series of neck mobilizations.
By practicing them regularly, it will improve their proprioception.
Because heading the ball and collisions can negatively effect proprioception, it’s a good idea to do these as part of the warm up and cool down.
Experts believe that lack of neck strength is one of the reasons girls suffer more concussions than boys.
This idea comes from research showing that athletes with stronger necks, suffer less concussions.
Neck strengthening has been used in sports like boxing for years, for some reason it isn’t common practice in soccer.
This is something that needs to change especially as increasing neck strength is really easy to do!
In video below we’re going to take the drills you just learnt and add resistance to help improve strength.
Next I want to talk about something that you might not even know existed. And that’s vision training.
Most people think vision is something they are stuck with, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Vision is a skill (or more accurately, vision is made up of multiple skill) that can be trained.
And research is starting to sow that vision train can be an effective tool for reducing the incidence of concussion.
There was a ground breaking study done by the Department of Neurology & Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Cincinati.
They showed that 2 weeks vision training pre-season reduced the incidence of concussion by 90% in football players.
The authors concluded that the reduction in concussion was due to improved peripheral vision. Better peripheral vision allowed players to protect themselves from contacts.
While this study wasn’t done on soccer, it makes sense that the same applies.
A 90% reduction in concussions is a pretty incredible result, which makes peripheral vision training a must!
Especially considering peripheral vision is also correlated with better tactical awareness and decision making on the field!
I’ve made 2 videos to teach you how to train vision.
The first video is going to teach you how to train 4 basic visual skills and how you can use them to improve peripheral vision.
- Visual Tracking (eye circle)
- Convergence (pencil push up)
- Saccades (thumb switches)
- Accommodation (near far switches)
In the next video I'm going to show you some more advanced peripheral vision training drills that can be done with partners.
These drills are great additions to practice sessions and pre-match warm ups.
They help to train your players ability to focus on things, while maintaining awareness of whats going on around them.
Not also will this help them to stay safer, it will help them to become a much better player.
Ok, so we've looked at 4 different types of training that can be used to reduce the risk of concussion.
These drills take very little time to do, but have the potential to massively reduce players risk of concussion.
Having said that, there is a lot more that can be done to reduce risk risk, which is why I've made FREE program to teach players a more comprehensive approach to reducing risk.
If you are interested, enter your details below.
Fill out your details below and I'll send you my Neuro Soccer Warm Up Program.
About The Author
Richard Brice is a Neuro Athletic & Performance Coach. He specializes in helping athletes optimize their performance by using applied neurology. Richard has a Degree in Science and football and is a former University Player.