Measurement, characterization, and effects of head impacts in women's soccer

Emily C McCuen, Purdue University


The potential for long term neurological deficits resulting from repetitive head trauma is a major concern for collision sport athletes. Research conducted on football played has found neurophysiologic changes in the absence of concussion in athletes as early as high school age. Given that female soccer players show the highest rate of concussion for female athletes and a higher rate of concussion than their male counterparts, it is important to characterize the types of impacts female soccer athletes receive and assess female soccer athletes for neurophysiologic changes due to these impacts. This work paired head impact sensors with functional MRI to assess the effects of head impacts experienced by female soccer players at both the high school and collegiate level. A total of 29 high school female soccer athletes were studied from two different high schools (HS1: n=12, HS2: n=17) and 14 collegiate Division I female soccer athletes from one university. Collegiate athletes sustained significantly higher cumulative loads in terms of peak translational and peak angular accelerations than high school athletes (p<.001). However, a subset of high school athletes sustained cumulative loading on par with collegiate athletes despite their season being 2-4 weeks shorter than the collegiate season. High school athletes experiencing high cumulative loads through a 10-12 week season exhibited a significant decline in cerebrovascular reactivity. Overall, the results indicate that the female soccer athletes sustain significant mechanical loading to the head throughout a season, capable of causing neurophyisiologic changes in the brain. These results indicate that soccer athletes may also be at risk for chronic neurologic damage even in the absence of concussion.




Nauman, Purdue University.

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