Are young soccer players 'headed' for trouble?

Reports show heading soccer balls might be bad for brain

POSTED: 6:45 PM PDT August 23, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

It's an important, impressive part of a game that's usually dominated by feet: heading the soccer ball.

But could our young soccer stars be headed toward trouble?

"There's a lot of research being done to evaluate whether there's long term vs. short term injury based on heading the ball," Desert Orthopedics Athletic Trainer Tyson Langeliers said recently.

Recent medical reports from the University of Texas show repeated, minor impacts to the brain -- such as heading a soccer ball -- could be bad for your brain.

Langeliers said the research is so new, experts are still learning about potential effects.

But some still don't buy it.

"Heading the ball properly is not dangerous," Ridgeview High School Soccer Coach Keith Bleyer said Friday.  "I will believe that until they put me in the grave."

One of Bleyer's athletes agrees.

"(It's) not so much heading the ball, just the collision from someone else trying to do the same thing," said senior Chase Bennett.

No pads other than shin guards, no helmets -- Langeliers has seen many soccer injuries. He said younger children might be at greater risk doing headers.

"Strengthening the neck muscles are about the only thing we can truly do decrease the amount of injury," Langeliers said.

And many younger athletes are afraid of heading the ball.

"Sometimes, after a game, my head will hurt a little bit if I've headed the ball," 12-year-old soccer player Isabel Merel. "I try not to think about it, but I worry sometimes that I might have something wrong with my head."

Coaches says learning proper technique is key.

"(You need to be) coming strong to the ball, using their torso to drive forward," Bleyer said.

New products on the market, like soccer "headbands," are made to reduce impact. But Langeliers warns no helmet will prevent concussions.

"(Wearing these items can) decrease the odds of getting facial lacerations and fractures," Langeliers said. "There's nothing that stops the brain from moving forward and back yet."

And as technology keeps revealing the mysteries and consequences of concussions, new gear will be developed to combat them.

But taking headers out of soccer won't likely happen any time soon.

"You don't think about your head so much as the goal you just scored," Bennett said.