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American parents suing over soccer and concussion risk: Is it relevant that girls get hurt more often?

Two pieces of news with interesting connections.

First, there’s a class account lawsuit by American parents against Fifa over concussion risk to young soccer players. See http://m.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-28961233

A group of young American footballers and their parents have sued Fifa and US football groups over the risks from concussions.

The California class-action lawsuit accuses the sport’s governing bodies of acting “carelessly and negligently” and failing to protect young players.

The filing also calls for new safety rules, including limiting the number of headers for young players

Second, there have also been reports about the higher concussion risk for girls playing soccer. See the Wall Street Journal.

Researchers aren’t sure why girls are more likely to suffer concussions, but theorize it’s because girls’ neck muscles are not as strong or because they are more likely to report their injuries. Most concussions result from collisions with another player, not from heading the ball, says Matthew Grady, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at the Children Hospital of Philadelphia.

Most leagues require players who show symptoms of concussions (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) to be cleared by a medical professional before returning to the field. The practice became an official rule of the NFHS this past school year.

And also the Washington Post.

Since 2008, high school girls’ soccer players have reported an average of 14 concussions per 10,000 games played (a game is equal to one game played by one player). The figure is nearly twice the average for boys’ soccer (7.30), and only football (27) and boys’ hockey (18) have reported more concussions than girls’ soccer.

I’m not sure why I find this shocking. But I do. I think I’m making the same mistake I’ve accused others of making. See Dangerous Sports and Assumptions and Gender and Risk.

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6 thoughts on “American parents suing over soccer and concussion risk: Is it relevant that girls get hurt more often?

  1. I tend to think that girls report the injuries more because their parents get more concerned about them if they collide or show symptoms of a concussion. There is still a lot of “manning up” taking place in this country and around the world when it comes to boys and injuries.

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  2. I agree, I definitely think it has to do with reporting, not with girls’ “weak” bodies. It would be interesting if someone would do a study or something, though, to get more details and a better picture of what is going on.

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      1. I’m sure it is a combination of things, and I should have said more clearly that it isn’t a result of girls’ inherently “weak” bodies. I would not be surprised if, for reasons of nurture, girls are weaker in specufic areas and I also am not surprised that the report you linked mentioned girls’ different style of aggression in the air as well as a different style of awareness in the air. Very in line with feminist work on how gender/sex role training throughout women’s lives affects their embodiment and senses of themselves in relation to other, moving objects, e.g. “throwing like a girl” by iris marion young

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  3. Just read the link, Sam. (Oh, and happy birthday!) Very interesting.
    I do not know whether women in general have thinner skulls or less brain protection than men in general. What more interested me, however, was a Varsity coach’s observations that men had a better peripheral vision and were less focused completely on the soccer ball in the air when going to hit it with their heads. I’m possibly going to get into trouble for saying this, but it has been also my general observation that alot of women I’ve known don’t seem to have the same sort of bird’s eye view of things – a view where you see everything and nothing in particular – which allows you to easily time things like when and at what angle to go after someone (like in foootball, to tackle them) or to just know you can’t get to them so just run at an angle to the endzone and hope something happens to them to allow you a chance to get to them, or to easily cross a street with cars going in both directions – things like that. I always assumed that these women’s “see everything and nothing” and/or “timing” skills were actually quite poor in this way because they never simply practiced such skills at an early age playing contact sports on a somewhat consistent basis until it became second nature – a skill you didn’t have to think about. I don’t actually know if this is the reason for this difference I’ve observed. I don’t think it’s true of all women and I’m positive alot of women have better developed those skills than I ever have. But I have observed this general difference in men and women personally, and I really do not believe that I’m being sexist or perceive women differently because of underlying sexist tendencies, when I say this. I know for a fact that when I first perceived this difference when I was a teenager, I was shocked by it. The shock turned to almost fascination, maybe because it was such a difference.

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  4. My understanding is that physical strength is quite important in durability and susceptibility to injury, which is a reason why one of the best things any athlete can do (of whatever gender and whatever sport) is to get stronger than they currently are. It wouldn’t surprise me that girls and women have more injuries for this exact reason: women simply have lower levels of physical strength, for physiological reasons which transcend the social. I’m not sure if this is true for girls as well, or if it only matters once boys start receiving massive androgen boosts in puberty.

    I don’t have the experience to comment on what Craig has said, but to my mind it seems to relate well to studies which show that men generally have a stronger sense of spatial relations and the ability to manipulate objects in their head than women do. Whether that is nature or nurture is difficult to say.

    Of course, the (hypothesized) greater willingness of girls and women to admit to injury, or a greater attentiveness on the part of adults to the physical safety of girls in their care, may also play a part (or perhaps the whole part).

    And to be clear, I in no way intend to disparage female athletes at all; I only wish to say that they will almost invariably be physically weaker than male athletes of a similar size at the same level of competition.

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