Surprise ! It’s a soccer match!

On Friday, June 3rd, my group presented article 3 which focused on the association between participation in professional rugby and mild traumatic brain injuries. Our group introduced the article with a brief presentation on how the game of rugby works, including the different player positions and responsibilities on the field. Leaving class as rugby experts, we were excited to travel to the Stade de France to watch a rugby match between France and Denmark. 

As my roommate and I were walking toward the stadium from the metro, we realized the crazy number of fans that were waiting in line to get in. After getting the flag of France painted on our cheeks to prove team pride and blend in, we made our way into the enormous stadium to search for our seats. Minutes before the game started, we finally realized that the field setup did not match the rugby setup. Instead of the H-shaped goal posts, there were two soccer goals. 

As I took this photo, the realization hit that this looked suspiciously like a soccer game.


Although it wasn’t what we were expecting, it was certainly a nice surprise! We were originally tasked to pick out a rugby player and keep track of each time they suffered a hit to the head for the duration of the match. Shifting our task to the soccer match, we noticed that there were few to no instances that the players received a hit to the head unintentionally. Instead, the players seemed to intentionally hit the soccer ball with their heads as part of a play. The combination of so much movement across the field and no real-time replays resulted in an estimation that the French team’s individuals had this type of hit at least 7 times. 

Jewel, Khushi, Solanch, and me when we found out we were at a soccer match!


Following the preliminary discussion of mTBI in professional rugby players and reflecting on the soccer match, I was curious to learn more about the prevalence of concussions. According to Bunc et al.,2017, a professional soccer player hits the ball with their head between 6-17 times per match. As with professional rugby players, a team of researchers also found “increased evidence for brain atrophy”, or loss of neurons and neuronal connections when they compared imaging to a non-soccer player control group (Tysvaer et al., 1989). These specific findings led to recommendations on emphasizing head injury assessment and treatment, using proper head play techniques, and using a different size ball (3-5) depending on the age ranges of the players. It’s interesting to learn and see how neuroscience findings translate to real-world implications.

Bunc, G., Ravnik, J., & Velnar, T. (2017). May Heading in Soccer Result in Traumatic Brain Injury? A Review of Literature. Medical archives (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina), 71(5), 356–359. 

Tysvaer, A. T., Storli, O. V., & Bachen, N. I. (1989). Soccer injuries to the brain. A neurologic and electroencephalographic study of former players. Acta neurologica Scandinavica, 80(2), 151–156. 

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