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Concussions common in girls soccer

• Dec 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Oakwood soccer player Lily Behnke suffered a concussion in the first high school match of the season in late August. She wasn't cleared to return to action until two weeks ago.

"I took an elbow to the back of the head and remember hitting the ground. I got up and knew I wasn't OK," Behnke said. "I went on for another two minutes and started almost dry-heaving. After that, I went down."

The 16-year-old sophomore was helped off the field and taken by ambulance to a hospital. She was dazed and her left side was numb, but an emergency room doctor had encouraging words.

"He said three times to us 'soccer is a non-contact sport' and that she'd be back in a week," said Lily's mom, Lynn.

Instead, Lily ended up in speech and physical therapy for eight weeks. She had bad headaches that lingered until Halloween and missed a lot of school. She also had memory issues.

"One day I was feeling really bad and my mom was talking to me and I was staring into space," Lily said. "I could hear her, but couldn't comprehend what she was saying."

That's when she got the nickname "Zombie Lily."

"She just couldn't do very much, and if she did she turned white as a ghost," Lynn said.

Lily saw her first post-concussion game action two weeks ago with her club team and experienced no setbacks.

Although the length of her recovery was unusual, Lily's diagnosis was common. Nearly 75,000 concussions were diagnosed in girls soccer in the 2014-15 school year, second only to football, according to the High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study.

More than one-third of all injuries in the sport were concussions or injuries to the head or face, the highest percentage of any sport.

Concussions also are common in girls basketball and volleyball. Studies show that in gender-comparable sports such as soccer and basketball, girls experience more head injuries than boys.

"The truth is we don't know why," said Dawn Comstock, an associate professor at the Colorado School of Health who oversees the national injury survey. "It could be a physiological difference. Girls may truly be injured more frequently than boys. There are some theories about neck strength or chemical differences in the brain.

"Or there may be a cultural answer. We're diagnosing athletes largely off their self-reported symtoms. If girls are more likely to tell a coach, trainer or parent when they're not feeling right, they are going to be diagnosed more frequently."

In Ohio this fall, 128 girls soccer players were taken off the field by game officials after they exhibited signs of concussion, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

The OHSAA requires officials to turn in paperwork in such cases, but those statistics do not reflect concussions that are spotted by trainers or coaches.

Football officials helped 113 players off the field. Boys soccer had 97 athletes removed.

That soccer statistic was not a surprise to the OHSAA's Tim Streid.

"The body part that is often involved in (soccer injuries) that is not involved in other sports is the elbow," he said. "You never hear of a kid getting a concussion in football because of an elbow, but it sure happens in soccer."

By Brian Kollars — Dayton Daily News, Ohio (TNS)

(c)2015 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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