Children's Hospital Colorado

Do Soccer Header Bands Protect Athletes?

A group photo of a soccer team wearing concussion headbands.

Did you know, even though soccer is defined as a contact sport by the American Academy of Pediatrics, protective head gear isn’t required for U.S. youth soccer players?

Researchers have followed numerous sports teams, including soccer, to learn more about concussions and repeated “subconcussive” blows. Findings showed that most concussions aren’t from repeatedly heading the ball, but are from collisions with other players, the ground, goalposts, or when the ball strikes the head unexpectedly.

Little information is available about the consequences of multiple “subconcussive” blows, which may occur by repeatedly heading the ball, although recent work indicates that purposeful heading isn’t likely to lead to brain injury.

So why use a header band?

Header bands work by dispersing forces applied to the head. This means the energy of the impact is not concentrated in one spot, which may decrease the amount of force directed to the brain.

More teams are requiring the use of header bands as growing evidence suggests they can limit injury to the head and face.

Header bands have the potential to lower the risk of concussion, especially in higher velocity impacts such as those resulting from head-to-head or head-to-ground/goal post contact.

A history of repeated concussion may be a problem over time especially in children and teens whose brains are still actively developing. It’s possible the use of header bands will provide a certain level of protection.

Your decision regarding the use of header bands is an important one and should be made in consultation with your primary care physician or other medical specialist trained in assessing these kinds of injuries.

We continue to research header bands

We are partnering with Real Colorado Soccer 11 to 12-year-old teams to study the efficacy of header bands over the next several years. This age group is important to watch, because this when players really start to become competitive and more aggressive in their play.

For all players, we encourage training in proper heading technique, good body positioning skills, and improved core and upper body strength as ways of preventing or limiting the consequences of blows to the head.

Do you have questions about header bands? Have you seen people wearing these? If so, tell us where.

Learn more about concussion and mild brain injury. 

Concussion Program Hotline: 720-777-2806

Disclaimer: Neither the authors or Children’s Hospital Colorado represent or have any financial relationship with any sports equipment manufacturer and do not promote the use of any specific brand of head gear.

Check out more sports safety articles

Written by: Pamela E. Wilson, MD, Co-Director, Concussion Program Department of Rehabilitation Medicine.