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Rising Concussion Rates Among Female Soccer Players Have Some Proposing Rule Changes

MIDLETOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Soccer was once thought to be a safer alternative to other sports like football or lacrosse, but a new study reveals that the rate of concussions sustained by girls playing the game in high school is spiking nationwide.

As CBS2's Meg Baker reported, women's soccer is one of the most popular sports -- with more than 1.5-million youth players in the U.S.

Female players are faster, stronger, and bigger than ever as they dribble down the field.

"Which makes the game move at a higher rate and the impact physically increased," Mike Prybecien, Athletic Trainer, Sports Safety International explained.

It can lead to sports injuries like concussions, and the American Academy of Pediatricians found emergency room visits for concussions to female soccer players rose nearly 1,600 percent from 1990 to 2014.

One reason why girls may be more prone to injury is neck strength.

"Decreased size of neck allows the head to move a little bit more and increases the chances of concussions," Prybicien said.

The game is also way more aggressive. Another study found that in the last 10 years, 51 percent of concussions were caused by player on player contact, compared to 29 percent from contact with a ball -- especially headers.

Coaches told CBS2's Baker their main goal is to keep players healthy and in Middletown, N.J. they are taking an extra step to do so.

"This fall instituted a voluntary baseline concussion testing program," Coach Michael Mascone said.

Before each season players get a full check up.

"It tests cognitive as well as dexterity, balance, and that gives you a rating so should there be an injury you know what the base was, what the risk is going forward," Mascone said.

That way the player can return to play when healed, without risk.

Over the last four years the U.S. Soccer Federation has instituted protocols that include concussion training for parents coaches and players.

Other major changes include; no heading the ball in games until the age of 13, with some experts saying female players should be required to wear head gear and that should be rigid rule enforcement against physical play.

Another factor to the large increase -- it's believed female players report injuries at a higher rate than males.


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