Women close their eyes before men when heading; and this can increase injuries – 02/09/2024 – Marina Izidro

Women close their eyes before men when heading;  and this can increase injuries – 02/09/2024 – Marina Izidro

Did you know that professional football players may be more likely to suffer head injuries than men because they close their eyes before they do when heading? What surprised me most was that I only now learned something so important and, at the same time, it seems so simple.

The study by Professor Kerry Peek, from the University of Sydney, was presented at the FIFA Medical Conference this week. She also published an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a renowned scientific platform.

The aim of the research was to understand why women are 50% more likely to suffer concussions in football than men. Analyzing videos from the 2022 men’s and 2023 women’s World Cups, Peek identified 149 shots that could cause injuries in them and 215 in them. He saw that, when heading, a woman closes her eyes earlier – which leaves her less able to adapt to the direction and impact of the ball – and her body position is also different. Men tend to protect the space around themselves more with their arms, women do not, making them more vulnerable to concussions which often occur due to the impact of the head on the ground in a fall or the shock when fighting for an aerial ball.

The researcher believes that the flaws are easy to correct and happen because players have undergone different types of strength and technique training, and not because they are afraid of getting injured. For Peek, women need to train their heading technique more, not necessarily with ball impact all the time, but effectively.

Here in England, the study comes at a time when guidelines are going in the opposite direction. Sports authorities recommend banning heading for children, with limits up to age 18, because of concerns about neurodegenerative diseases. The professor recalls that 80% of sports studies on concussion were carried out on men, and there are almost none on high-performance women. This is common.

In 2020, only 6% of all sports science research was carried out exclusively on women, according to the book “The Female Body Bible”, written by former British rowing team athlete Baz Moffat, a PhD in exercise physiology from Brunel University Emma Ross, and doctor Bella Smith.

Only this year will UEFA start a study group to discuss the increase in anterior cruciate knee ligament injuries in female football players.

During the Women’s World Cup, the Sheet published an interesting report on the evolution of goalkeepers, showing how for years there was no basic training or specific work for the role.

In England, women were banned from playing football in stadiums for almost 50 years, until 1970, because the sport was considered “inappropriate” for them. In Brazil, a veto, through a decree signed by Getúlio Vargas in 1941, only fell in 1979.

Therefore, we have to put an end to the concept that what was studied for men automatically works for women. And stop with certain types of comparisons. There is a huge gap between the development of men’s football and women’s football that was not caused by them.

There’s no way to make up for lost time, but I see the glass as half full in women’s sport. Little by little, we are moving forward, making up the difference. Where there is a will there is a way.

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