Could better eye training help reduce concussion in women's soccer?

January 18, 2017, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
In a study from the University of Cincinnati, a photo analysis of soccer headers found that 90 percent of females close their eyes when heading the ball, Credit: University of Cincinnati Athletics

With the ever-growing popularity of women's soccer, attention to sports-related concussions is also a growing concern, as the act of heading the ball is thought to contribute to increased incidence of concussion.

"Current evidence shows that high school female incur a higher concussion rate than males," says Joe Clark, PhD, professor in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "While this is often attributed to gender differences in physical build or neck muscle strength, our study suggested that there might be other behaviors such as field awareness that are contributing factors that result in these higher concussion rates."

Researchers working with Clark observed that in photographs of female soccer players during play, the players often had their eyes closed while heading the ball. They wanted to quantify whether female athletes closed their eyes more frequently than male counterparts, as a first step toward determining if less visual awareness might expose players to a higher risk of injury. Their results of the first part of this study are have been published in the online version of Medical Hypotheses.

Through an analysis of Google images of soccer headers by both male and female players in active game play, 100 images of each gender were reviewed and categorized. Some images showed more than one athlete participating in the header, what some people may call a 50-50 ball.

Of 170 females identified in the photos, 90.6 percent of them were shown to have their eyes closed during play. By comparison, 79 percent of male players had their eyes closed, of the 170 male athletes evaluated in the photos.

These findings indicated that female players were more likely to close their eyes at the act of heading the ball, versus males. Vision training methods in other concussion-prone sports like football work to train the athletes to use visual tactics to be aware of the ball and aware of other players prior to a hit something the researchers refer to as "eye discipline."

It is felt that better eye discipline may account for the difference in concussion rates between males and females. "In other studies, has successfully reduced the rates of concussion in college football athletes; overall lack of in a contact sport may increase the risks of concussion. Therefore vision training and better eye discipline may decrease concussion rates."

Clark, who works with high school and college-level athletes on vision training techniques to improve their awareness in avoiding hits on the field, says that with practice, athletes can learn to play safer. "The startle reflex, or blinking or closing one's eyes upon a perceived risk, can be suppressed through training and coaching. So it is possible that training to improve eye discipline and maintain control of ball handling, may help mitigate concussions in soccer heading the ball," he says.

Hagar Elgendy, a medical student at the UC College of Medicine, and a co-author of the study, has been involved with the sports medicine research at UC for the past few years. "Concussion in sport has gained much attention recently. It was exciting and interesting to be involved in this project and to propose a hypothesis for the greater concussion incidence in the athletic setting for females over males." Elgendy, along with her sister, Hanna Elgendy, worked to obtain and analyze the Google images for the study.

Clark says, "We hope to follow up with larger future studies as to whether eyes closed upon impact correlate with higher rates of , to validate this hypothesis."

Explore further: Concussions in female high school athletes—frequent but under-reported

More information: Joseph F. Clark et al, Lack of eye discipline during headers in high school girls soccer: A possible mechanism for increased concussion rates, Medical Hypotheses (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2016.12.016

Related Stories

Concussions in female high school athletes—frequent but under-reported

September 29, 2016
Nearly half of female athletes participating in high school sports have had a diagnosed or suspected concussion—but most don't report these sports-related injuries to coaches or trainers, reports a study in the Journal ...

Brain protein predicts recovery time following concussion

January 7, 2017
Elevated levels of the brain protein tau following a sport-related concussion are associated with a longer recovery period and delayed return to play for athletes, according to a study published in the January 6, 2017 issue ...

The 'hidden injury' in sports: research sheds light on concussions

September 15, 2014
Star receiver Charles-Antoine Sinotte suffered a concussion during his last home game for the McGill Redmen in 2010. "It was like nothing I had experienced before," recalls Sinotte. "I felt like I was out of my body." Although ...

Concussion outcomes differ among football players from youth to college

May 2, 2016
Concussions in high school football had the highest average number of reported symptoms and high school football players had the highest proportion of concussions with a return-to-play time of at least 30 days compared with ...

Study draws attention to female athletes, concussion

September 9, 2016
It's a dangerous epidemic in contact sport, a little-studied problem that slid under the radar for decades. And while research surrounding sport-related concussions has gained momentum in recent years, studies have mainly ...

Study examines incidence of concussion in youth, high school, college football

May 4, 2015
A slight majority of concussions happened during youth football games but most concussions at the high school and college levels occurred during practice, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.

Recommended for you

New imaging technique can spot tuberculosis infection in an hour

August 16, 2018
Guided by glowing bacteria, researchers have devised an imaging technique that can diagnose live tuberculosis in an hour and help monitor the efficacy of treatments. That's particularly critical because many TB strains have ...

Obesity, infertility and oxidative stress in mouse egg cells

August 16, 2018
Excessive body fat is associated with negative effects on female fertility and pregnancy. In mice, maternal obesity impairs proper development of egg precursor cells called oocytes. In a recent paper published in Molecular ...

Research shows it's possible to reverse damage caused by aging cells

August 15, 2018
What's the secret to aging well? University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have answered it- on a cellular level.

This matrix delivers healing stem cells to injured elderly muscles

August 15, 2018
A car accident leaves an aging patient with severe muscle injuries that won't heal. Treatment with muscle stem cells from a donor might restore damaged tissue, but doctors are unable to deliver them effectively. A new method ...

Male tobacco smokers have brain-wide reduction of CB1 receptors

August 15, 2018
Chronic, frequent tobacco smokers have a decreased number of cannabinoid CB1 receptors, the "pot receptor", when compared with non-smokers, reports a study in Biological Psychiatry.

Byproducts of 'junk DNA' implicated in cancer spread

August 14, 2018
The more scientists explore so-called "junk" DNA, the less the label seems to fit.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.