A while back I posted information from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) regarding their Sports Medicine Committee’s statement on head injuries in soccer. That statement expressed their opinion that the use of headgear in soccer would not reduce the amount or severity of head injuries that players suffered, and might actually lead to more injuries through more aggressive play. That post lead to an email from a proponent of soccer headgear which I blogged about here. I also received many comments from readers about their own views on using padded headgear in the game which was really entertaining and enlightening (please keep the comments coming!). Late last week I was again fortunate enough to receive more information on this hotly debated topic. This time the message was from Mark Skeen, the Vice President of Full90 Sports (Full90 produces padded headgear for soccer players), and he alerted me to a recent article in The British Journal of Sports Medicine that discussed the effectiveness of headgear in soccer. Below is his email to me. I decided to post this because I believe that an important discussion about head injury prevention is taking place here. I, along with representatives of Full90 Sports as well as readers of this blog have all taken the time to share their opinions, stories and personal accounts on this topic. The interesting thing that jumps out to me is that to date, the USSF, the very group that governs the sport and who issued the original position statement on this topic, have been silent. I invite anyone at the USSF who wishes to discuss this topic to email, call, snail-mail me their story. I, as well as the readers of this little spot of the blogosphere, would love to hear all sides of this important issue. Mark Skeen’s email

Mr. Stern, I noticed that you have the USSF statement concerning soccer headgear on your web blog. There are new studies on this topic conducted by FIFA. USSF is chartered by FIFA. These studies appear to be in direct contradiction to the statement you have posted. The British Journal of Sports Medicine, a world renowned peer reviewed medical journal, released on July 26, 2005 its long anticipated study titled “Effectiveness of headgear in football (soccer)” by C Withnall, N Shewchenko, M Wonnacott and J Dvorak. Biokinetics and Associates, a highly regarded Canadian research and test laboratory, conducted tests on behalf of F-MARC, FIFA’s Medical Assessment and Research Centre. F-MARC was a key contributor to the article. The purpose of the study was to “evaluate the protective capacity of football headgear that has recently entered the market”. The study concluded that forces associated with heading the ball are generally not sufficient to cause concussions. Thus, “headgear would not be necessary for head to ball impacts”. More importantly, however, various tests conducted in the study on head-to-head impacts showed that such impacts often do reach concussive levels, “head to head contacts is the most likely scenario for concussions”. The Full90 Performance Headguard is the only product in the study marketed specifically for head to head and other hard surface impacts. The study found that Full90 Headguards can reduce the probability of concussion by more than 50% in a head to head collision at an impact speed of 3 meters per second. “The headgear provided measurable benefit during head to head impacts.” In every head to head impact condition measured, Full90 provided significant reduction in concussion risk. Full90 Headguards were also designed to comply with FIFA Law IV and further clarifications specified by the USSF in their March 8, 2003 Player Equipment memorandum. Full90 Performance Headguards have been tested and show no effect on rebound speed of a headed ball, thus the headgear can be worn without changing that important aspect of the game. It is yet to be determined if the other manufacturers’ products comply with the above. The British Journal of Sports Medicine’s article concludes “The findings of the head to head impacts show headgear provides a measurable improvement in head response”. For further information the article can be found at: http://bjsm.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/39/suppl_1/i40