As the evidence grows about the dangers of repeated concussions—especially for children—parents and coaches alike have looked for ways to make kids' sports safer.

Childrens' brains are still developing, so concussions are especially important to prevent and treat. Learn more: Brain Rest and Concussion Recovery for Children

One of the main suspected culprits for concussions in soccer has been the practice of "heading," or passing the ball using the head. As a result, there has been an increasing call to ban heading in youth soccer.


However, a new study from JAMA Pediatrics finds that heading is not the primary cause for concussions in youth soccer—it’s collisions with other players.

Researchers examined concussion data of boy and girl soccer players from a large pool of nationwide high schools from 2005 to 2014.1

Their findings included the following:

  • Girls' risk for concussion was about twice as high as boys'.
  • Player-on-player contact was the most common cause of concussion, accounting for 69% of concussions for boys and 51% for girls.
  • Heading was the most dangerous soccer-specific activity, responsible for 31% of boys' concussions and 25% of girls'.
  • Most of the heading-related concussions were still caused by player-on-player contact (78% for boys and 62% for girls)

The study authors conclude that, although heading was the riskiest soccer activity, the actual mechanism that caused most of the concussions was player-on-player contact. While a ban on heading in youth soccer would prevent concussions, but looking at ways to reduce player collisions would be a more effective prevention strategy.

If someone experiences a collision or other accident that leads to a head injury, how do you know if it's actually a concussion? This is where it’s important to know the signs of concussion, because it’s dangerous for someone with a concussion to return to play or otherwise go unevaluated by a medical professional.

Signs of a concussion include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fogginess or trouble concentrating
  • Sluggishness
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Sensitivity to sound or light

For a complete list of symptoms, see Concussion Symptoms

Learn more:

  1. Comstock R, Currie DW, Pierpoint LA, Grubenhoff JA, Fields SK. An Evidence-Based Discussion of Heading the Ball and Concussions in High School Soccer. JAMA Pediatr. Published online July 13, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1062.