Return to Play: Soccer-Related Concussions
On Sept. 4, 2011, the Youngstown State University soccer team fell at Canisius, 1-0.
Both teams were scoreless at the end of the first half. Obviously, Canisius would score the game’s lone goal in the second half. But Brittany Dowd, a redshirt sophomore at the time, does not remember that goal, or the entire second half for that matter.
Dowd suffered her second concussion.
“It wasn’t until about three hours later on the bus ride when I realized where I was or what I was doing.”
According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1997-2012, there have been a total of 204,135 concussions in soccer, which is an average of 12,758 per year. Only bicycling, football and basketball rank higher.
Soccer could be the most dangerous because padded headgear is not a requirement. This poses a major concern when a player goes head-to-head with an opponent or the ball itself.
“I don’t think there’s really a way to prevent [concussions],” Allison Ludwig said. “I know girls that wear the headgear, and they like it. I think if you start out wearing it, you’ll get used to it. But I played 13 years without it, so it was hard for me to even consider wearing one because it would be a different aspect of my game.”
Dowd experienced her first concussion during her final game at Beaver Local High School. She went up for a header and landed on her head. Her second concussion was more serious.
“I had fallen in the box, someone went to kick the ball, and it was a pretty hard hit. When I had fallen, they kicked the ball and hit me in the head,” Dowd said.
Dowd missed the next two weeks, which resulted into four games. The first night was the worst.
“When I got home, my roommates had to stay up and watch me and wake me up every once in a while to make sure that I was okay,” Dowd said. “I guess they’re afraid that you won’t wake up, which is kind of scary.”
A four-year letter winner, two-time team captain and four-time all-conference member in high school, Dowd has dealt with injuries throughout her collegiate career. She appeared in nine games in 2009, two in 2010, 15 as a redshirt sophomore in 2011 and 11 in 2012.
Ludwig missed roughly the same amount of time as Dowd after her first and third concussions, one at Centerville High and the final at YSU.
Ludwig’s second concussion was the most severe. It occurred during her junior year of high school.
“I had the ball at my feet, went to turn and a girl elbowed me right in the [left] eye socket,” Ludwig said. “To tell you how hard of a hit it actually was, I broke my orbital bone underneath my eye. I don’t remember anything from that night at all. I don’t remember going to the hospital. I don’t remember anything until I woke up in my bed the next morning.”
Surgery was not required, but Ludwig did miss three months. She was not allowed to do anything during that time, not even run for the first month since the injury.
A three-year letter winner in high school, Ludwig was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team in 2010 despite missing five games with a broken hand. She started and played 13 times in 2011, scoring three goals and six points. She appeared in all 17 games in 2012 and started five times.
Despite the life-threatening consequences, Dowd and Ludwig were not scared to return to the field.
“It wasn’t enough to make me quit something that I love so much and that I’ve been doing for so long,” Ludwig said. “Maybe this makes me a little reckless, but I didn’t really think much about it. It was a serious injury, but I’ve had them before. I didn’t really think twice about coming back.”