Soccer is on the rise - and so is the number of concussions - namely for girls. In fact, recent studies have shown that girls are more likely to sustain a concussion than boys.
A Chicago area girls’ high school soccer coach is doing something about it. He's not sidelining his players. They are actually playing harder, winning the ball more times on the field and he says they are safer.
He's doing it with the addition of one thing: a headband. And it's reducing the number of concussions on his girls' soccer teams.
For the third year running, Kent Overbey is requiring one thing of all of his players on the Glenbard East High School girls’ soccer team. Not heart, not sweat, not even a trophy.
They all must wear protective headgear. The risk of concussions to his players is too much for them and too much for him.
"We had a goalie who suffered her second concussion and was out for a month,” Overbey says. “As a teacher and as a coach, you take those kinds of things home with you."
He insists that every player on the team wear a coated Kevlar headband. Its military grade technology, found in things like bulletproof vests, is now being applied to the sports world. He claims he is the only high school coach requiring it of his players in the entire state of Illinois.
"It’s a concussion suppression headband and the key there is suppression. You can't stop concussions,” he says.
When Overbey mandated the new headgear for his teams, players resisted and thought it was a joke. But in the end, they bought into it and even found it gave them more confidence on the field.
"In three years, we have had one soccer related concussion,” Overbey says. “For a team who played 29 games last year, earned third place in state in 3A, the big schools, to have one concussion in three years, I consider that a huge success."
It’s also worth noting he saw 10 concussions among his players in the prior seven years without the headbands.
Makers of the headband, The Unequal Halo, call it an airbag for the head.
"We felt it was a perfect compromise between a full helmet for soccer that nobody will wear versus something that is relatively fashionable and is going to address 80-85% of those moments that occur in soccer,” says Jim Caldwell of Unequal Halo.
Even though heading in soccer is responsible for less than 30% of all concussions in the sport, the collisions, dramatic wipeouts and legendary dives make soccer one of the most high-risk for a girl’s head.
"I care about all our players and I think we are doing everything we can to make sure they are as safe as possible and still play the game they love,” says Overbey.
Headbands retail anywhere from $40-$50. They don't prevent concussions. They claim to reduce the risk of them.
Players that sustain a second concussion and want to stay in the game, be it soccer, football, etc., headgear like the Halo can be required by a doctor. Overbey’s feeling is, why wait for that?
More information at http://unequal.com/