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Soccer Girls Continue to Play Despite Concussion Symptoms

Update Date: Jan 21, 2014 11:50 AM EST

A concussion, which is caused by a severe blow to the head, can lead to many symptoms, such as dizziness, trouble concentrating and sensitivity to light. Due to studies that reported dangerous side effects of concussions, all athletes must fully recover from their concussion symptoms before returning to the field. In a new study, however, researchers found that young girls in soccer teams continue to return to the field prematurely and play with their concussion symptoms.

"We were surprised at the number of girls reporting symptoms but more surprised at the number that played despite symptoms and never saw a health professional for their symptoms," Dr. John O'Kane, the lead investigator of the study, told Reuters Health. "Kids should understand that these symptoms could indicate a potentially serious injury and that they must stop play when they occur and notify their parents."

O'Kane and colleagues from the University of Washington's Department of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Seattle examined 351 young girls between the ages of 11 and 14. The girls came from 33 soccer teams in the Puget Sound area. The researchers tracked the athletes for at least one season over a total of four years. The researchers collected data on the girls' concussions and symptoms via emails sent to parents. They specifically asked about symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, headaches, ringing and concentration issues. If the parents said yes, the researchers contacted the girls for more information about their symptoms and recuperation process.

"The risk for concussion is higher obviously in football, but in soccer it is still elevated because it's a contact sport," lead author Dr. Melissa Schiff, professor of epidemiology in the school of public health at the University of Washington, said reported by FOX News. "Players run into each other, so concussion rates are up there. And there's been less study that's been done on female soccer players."

In total, there were 59 concussions with eight repeats. The majority of the head trauma occurred during a game. The injuries were inflicted either by another player or by the ball. The researchers calculated a concussions rate of 1.3 per 1,000 hours of practice or game. This rate is higher than the rates previous studies have calculated for female soccer players in high school or college. The symptoms lasted around nine days on average and only around 50 percent of the athletes sought medical help. 58 percent of the athletes continued to play with symptoms.

"If you've had a concussion, and then you get a second while you still haven't recovered from the first, your symptoms are much worse and they last for much longer," Dr. Amanda Weiss-Kelly, the division chief of pediatric spots medicine at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, said. Weiss-Kelly was not involved with the study.

The researchers caution parents who have children-athletes in contact sports to keep an eye out for these symptoms. Children and parents must realize the dangers of playing with concussion symptoms. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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