RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Concussions have become a huge topic in the world of sports during the past few years – from the pros, all the way down to youth leagues.
Women’s soccer, along with football and hockey, has some of the highest rates of concussions in all of sports.
“I mean if I ball parked it I’d probably say around 100,” said Cindy Parlow Cone.
Cone estimates she has suffered 100 concussions during her soccer career.
A career that saw the former UNC star winning two Olympic gold medals.
“Every level I’ve been at, I’ve only done it because it is fun. So as a youth, in college, professionally with the national team, the Olympics, the World Cup, I mean that stuff’s fun,” Cone said.
But she has also experienced some low points in her career.
“Injuries are the worst part about sports. For me, my worst injuries were with concussions. And ultimately decided to retire due to complications with post-concussion syndrome,” she said.
By definition, a concussion is violent shaking of the brain and as painful as that sounds, Cones knows how that feels.
And Cone is not alone.
The most dangerous play on the soccer field are headers but for the reason you might think.
Dr. Jason Mihalik, an injury-prevent expert, said it isn’t act of hitting the ball but colliding with another player’s head.
Mihalik and Cone agree it’s impossible to eliminate concussions but recently science has found some effective and not so effective ways to monitor them more closely.
He said devices such as head-impact monitoring systems allow researchers to collect data, sometimes in real time.
But other devices known as head-impact indicators are not quite as effective, Mihalik said.
“Now what we have found in those types of devices (head-impact indicators) is that if we have a thousand triggers, we are seeing that fewer than four will actually be a concussion,” Mihalik said.
So if head-impact indicators aren’t the best defense to concussions, what are?
Maybe just some well thought out questions.
“You’re going to ask a lot of questions before you drop your kid off at a daycare, but how many parents ask those same questions when they drop their kid off at a Pop Warner field and go run errands for the afternoon?” Mihalik said.
Ask about the coach and their qualifications. Ask what would happen if a player were injured, Mihalik said.
But what about the questions parents are asking themselves right now?
Are sports really worth it? Even after 100 or so concussions, Cone says the answer is “yes.”
“It has transformed my life, my best friends, my community come from the sport. I have traveled the world because of this sport and it has taught me so many life lessons. I would not be the person I am today without the sport of soccer,” Cone said.