Purdue collecting concussion data from soccer players

Purdue's women's soccer team is keeping an eye on possible concussions.
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The world's most popular spot is also the one most likely to cause concussions in female athletes.

Dr. Eric Nauman, a Purdue University researcher, says "We've seen 100G hits out here just as often as in football," referring to the strength of hits athletes take to the head on the soccer field.

"Well, women simply get more concussions because, you know, we go in harder," says Purdue soccer goalie Clara Kridler.

At Purdue they may find the real answer behind player's ears. That's where they wear stick-on sensors that record the power of the jolts to the student-athlete's heads.

"It seems really cool," says one soccer player as she returned her plastic sensor to a trainer's office.

The device is collecting a history of hits.

"We measure the acceleration on the head and have to try to translate that somehow to what's happening to the brain," says Nauman.

From heading the ball to head-to-head contact.

"I've been diagnosed with three concussions," says senior goaltender Clara Kridler.

Each time, she was in goal blocking a shot "at point blank range and it's being hit to my head," she says.

All those hits happened in practice.

"They are taking a lot of blows to the head. The ball is relatively hard, they have no protective equipment," said Professor Tom Tavalage.

The Purdue researchers study high school and college football, but the lack of helmets on the soccer field and the fast hard-hitting level of women's college play convinced the Big Ten to back women's soccer research.

Will those sensors show the same pattern as football: a big hit or many smaller hits affecting a player's brain function later in the season?

"We're strong girls. We're taught to kick the balls as hard as we can. It's flying in on you. You have nothing, no barrier. Then you're at a big risk," Kridler said.

So what helps, short of helmets?

"Making the ball a little softer, reducing some of the pressure in the ball," Tavalage said.

But also a careful strategy.

"If they're going up for a header, if they see the ball up in the air, hey, if you're not in a position where you really can go make contact with that ball, don't try to go up there and disrupt the other person, because you're really putting them at risk," Tavalage said.

The team will collect data all season and hopes to make it a multi-season study.