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Soccer has experienced steady growth in popularity over the past few decades. There is also growing concern for the long-term safety and neuropsychological health of players due to the high impacts and accumulation of “sub-concussive” head impacts throughout a player’s career. However, previous research focused on the quantifying of head accelerations in youth soccer players is sparse. PURPOSE: To quantify the magnitude and frequency of head accelerations in male and female youth soccer players in both practice and game settings. METHODS: One youth girls team and one youth boys team participated in this study. The girls and boys teams competed at the same age (U14 age bracket) and competitive level (1st division of Oregon Youth Soccer Association). From their respective teams, 9 male and 11 female competitive soccer players (age = 12.6 ± 0.49 years), volunteered to participate in this study. Each team was monitored for a total of 8 games and 8 practices. Research-grade wireless accelerometers, measuring G-force of head impacts in real-time, were utilized to collect data in practice and game settings. The headband-mounted accelerometers were distributed prior to the start of physical activities, and were coded to the specific individual. Additionally, practices and games were observed and information, such as playing time and injuries, was recorded in a log. All linear and rotational accelerations above 20g threshold were recorded and analyzed for differences in gender. RESULTS: The boys team experienced 52 sub-concussive impacts (20-60g) over the course of a season (34.9 ± 9.2 g, 25 in practice, 27 in games), and 3 impacts exceeding 60g. The girls team experienced 41 sub-concussive impacts over the course of the season (34.9 ± 7.7 g, 27 in practice, 14 in games), and 3 impacts exceeding 60g. With regard to severity of impacts (>60g), there was no difference between boy and girl youth soccer players at this age. However, there was a difference in the frequency of sub-concussive impacts between the girls and boys (girls= 233 impacts per 1000 exposures, boys= 361 impacts per 1000 exposures). CONCLUSION: Linear head acceleration above 60-70g has been suggested by many researchers to be strongly indicative of a concussion. Using that criterion, both youth girls and boys demonstrate an incidence of approximately 19 impacts per 1000 exposures. However, boys experience a 13% higher incidence of sub-concussive impacts, especially prevalent in games. Our study is one of the first to directly measure the head accelerations of youth soccer players. It is our hope that future studies can continue to quantify head impacts to make the sport safer for future generations.

Supported by Pacific University Research Grant.

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