Football: Headers are demonstrably more damaging to female players than men

Football: Headers are demonstrably more damaging to female players than men

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Brain Injuries: Headers harm women more than men

According to a new study, soccer headballs are significantly more dangerous for women than for men. The areas of damaged brain tissue are therefore five times more extensive in female athletes than in male athletes.

Dangerous head injuries

Head injuries in soccer or other “contact sports” are relatively common. Headballs in particular are dangerous, they can damage the brain. And that of women significantly more than that of men, as US scientists have now found out.

30 million women and girls kicking

According to FIFA, the international governing body of football associations, around 30 million women and girls play football worldwide. A header is much more dangerous for them than for male soccer players.

This is the result of a study by researchers led by Michael Lipton from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The study published in the journal "Radiology" showed that brain damage caused by headballs is five times stronger in women than in men.

As a statement says, the results suggested that gender guidelines could be justified to prevent football-related head injuries.

Women feel worse after head injuries

"Researchers and clinicians have long known that women are worse off than men after a head injury," said study author Michael Lipton.

"But some believed that this was only because women were more willing to report symptoms," said the radiologist.

"Based on our study, which measured objective changes in brain tissue instead of self-reported symptoms, women seem more likely than men to suffer head trauma from brain injuries."

Special MRI procedure

In order to arrive at their results, the researchers examined 49 male and female amateur footballers between the ages of 18 and 50 who had completed approximately the same number of headers in the twelve months before the examination.

A special form of MRI, the so-called “diffusion tensor imaging” (DTI), was used.

The scientists found that the volume of white matter damage was five times greater in female soccer players than in male players.

It was also shown that eight brain regions were affected in women and only three in men.

"The results complement the growing body of evidence that men and women develop different biological responses to brain trauma," said lead author Todd G. Rubin.

Headers can't be forbidden

It is not clear why women are more sensitive to head injuries than men. The researchers suspect that, among other things, the differences in the neck muscles could play a role.

According to the study authors, the damage found in the study was only minor, but it is still a cause for concern.

In some cases, they could lead to further brain damage and serious functional disorders.

So should soccer players stop with the headers? "We have conducted several studies that show that most players can tolerate a certain amount of headers," said Dr. Lipton.

“Instead of banning headers altogether - which is probably not realistic - we'd rather find out how many headers are getting players into trouble. What is important about this study is that men and women may need to be viewed differently. ”(Ad)

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