It’s time to own up to it: competitive soccer isn’t magically safer than other sports, in fact, a ten year study at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine showed that Boys Soccer and Girls Soccer were number two and three on the list of high-school sports with the highest concussion rate.
We don’t say this because we want parents or kids to be scared of playing soccer. Quite the opposite, we want parents, kids, and coaches to feel secure in their knowledge of the potential health risks of soccer. Burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the research will not change the risk or the stigma that soccer is a “safer option”.
Scientists, coaches, parents, and athletes aren’t alone in this either, there are a few stand-out brands that are making it their mission to reduce the number of head injuries and concussions at every level of soccer.
Based out of Brooklyn with the scrappiness to prove it, Storelli Sports is dedicated to protecting all of the soccer player. Their gear ranges from leg-guards to insoles to thigh-sliders, but they’ve really made an impact with their ExoShield HeadGuard. The official choice of US Club Soccer, the ExoShield HeadGuard was evaluated by Virginia Tech’s helmet lab and was shown to reduce concussions by 84%.
We were believers after seeing Storelli’s video showing off the HeadGuard’s military-grade viscoelastic foam which provides for maximum impact absorption:
Although not widely adopted yet, the amount of protection a simple headguard can provide is quickly becoming an undeniable benefit to athletes, particularly those athletes that have not reached high-school yet. US Club Soccer making the Storelli Exoshield HeadGuard the official sponsor for their youth teams is one of the first steps in legitimizing headgear as a necessary requirement for every player.
Full90 were one of the first companies to really bring the need for soccer head protection to light. Founder Jeff Skeen’s daughter was a passionate soccer player, but suffered multiple serious concussions during her playing days. Although assumed to be less physical, Girl’s Soccer actually has concussion rates on par with Boy’s football.
Jeff responded by creating Full90 in 2002. Their signature Premier headwear features a “ponytail port” so that Girl’s Soccer players can still keep their hair out of their face while reducing their risk of concussion. Full90s Select Performance Model is only $31.49 and studies from the British Journal of Sports Medicine have shown that wearing a Full90 headgear can decrease your overall risk of head injury by 33%.
Why nothing from the majors?
It’s surprising that some of the major soccer brands are not pursuing their own versions of protective soccer headwear. Nike within the last year has released a winter facemask deemed a ‘snood‘, and Adidas has released a neckwarmer for years, but neither is pushing into the headgear territory.
Perhaps once the demand is greater they’ll step in with a product, but for right now, it seems like a market the major soccer brands are not interested in serving.
A Word of Note:
There’s no gear in the world that can ensure 100% concussion prevention. As long as two players are jumping in the air with the intention of hitting their head on the same ball, the risk for damaging head-to-head contact will always be there.
While these two brands are leading the charge on drastically reducing the risk of concussions in soccer, we want to make it clear that a headguard is not license to play recklessly or without self-preservation in mind. They are no way meant to encourage or welcome head-to-head contact into the sport of soccer.