The SoccerPlus Education Center is a Connecticut-based 501-c-3 non-profit service organization. The Education Center strives to develop not only better soccer players, but better citizens. This is achieved through educational programs, seminars, community outreach events and individual mentoring on and off the soccer field.
 
March Newsletter Release
 
Welcome to the March issue of the SoccerPlus Education Center newsletter.

This month we wanted to share with you a pertinent article produced by the CDC and featured in the NSCAA Soccer Journal that highlights the increasing rate of diagnosed concussions in soccer, and the potential dangers posed by this trend. Soccer is often overlooked as a concussion hazard, especially in a country dominated by the other 'football.' Given the debilitating nature of recent high-profile cases in the MLS and WPS, it is clear that this issue needs exposure and correction.

Also in this issue, we recap February's extremely informative SPEC presentation by Chris Hamblin of College Soccer Advantage. He guided our players, parents and coaches through the often-perplexing college recruiting process. We bring you notes, suggestions and must-read tips from the experts.

Finally we bring you a compilation of images from last month's Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic held at Mohegan Sun, CT. A number of our club teams participated and had the opportunity to be coached by some of the most recognized and celebrated names in the coaching community. Thank you all for your participation and enthusiasm!

We hope you enjoy this edition of the SoccerPlus Education Center newsletter. Please e-mail us with any questions, comments or reading material you would like us to share with the SoccerPlus family in future editions.
 

Concussions in Soccer
Heads Up! Concussion in High School Sports
Center for Disease Control


Adapted and featured in Soccer Journal:
by Robert J. Elbin, Anthony P. Kontos and Tracey Couassin

About 300,000 sport-related concussions occur every year in the United States. Although sports such as football, rugby and ice hockey receive more attention for concussion, studies show that soccer players also are at risk. In fact, it estimated that every year in the United States, 6 percent of high school and 5 percent of college soccer players have a concussion. Therefore, it is important for coaches, parents, and players to be able to recognize concussions and their resulting effects. They should also be aware of the methods that can be utilized to help prevent concussion.

WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
A concussion can occur when a player’s head
directly contacts an opponent, the ball, the goal post or the ground. A concussion can also occur without direct contact when a player’s head comes to an abrupt halt (“whiplash”), causing the brain to ricochet against the inside of the skull. The resulting forces can damage blood vessels and neurons, resulting in swelling and bleeding in the brain. Unlike an injury such as a sprained ankle, which has a fairly predictable set of progressive and visible symptoms, an injury involving the brain is more complex and less visible than injuries to other parts of the body. In fact, some researchers have begun referring to concussion as the “invisible injury.”

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The complexity of the brain and the location of a concussion combine to create a wide variety of symptoms, cognitive impairments and performance difficulties. The signs and symptoms a player experiences following a concussion are influenced by the area of the brain that was affected. For example, a player who goes up for a flick-on header and strikes the back of his head (an area of the brain responsible for vision) on the defending player’s forehead may experience visual symptoms such as blurry or double vision or sensitivity to light.`

Researchers have examined these symptoms and cognitive impairments in an attempt to understand and predict recovery from concussion. One symptom that has been associated with concussion is loss of consciousness (LOC), or being “knocked out.” A common misconception is that an athlete must have LOC in order to have a concussion; however, only about 6 to 10 percent of all concussions involve LOC. Players are more likely to experience headache, dizziness, confusion, disorientation and memory loss from a concussion. Coaches should become familiar with the signs and symptoms in Table 1 to better recognize potential concussions in their players. The presence of any of these symptoms warrants holding a player out of practice or a game.
 
Signs Observed by Coaching Staff Symptoms Reported by Athlete
+  Appears dazed or stunned
+  Is confused about role or position
+  Forgets instruction
+  Is unsure of game, score, opponent
+  Moves clumsily
+  Answers questions slowly
+  Loses consciousness (even briefly)
+  Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
+  Can't recall events prior to hit or fall
+  Can't recall events after hit or fall
+  Headache or 'pressure' in head
+  Nausea or vomiting|
+  Balance problems or dizziness
+  Double or blurry vision
+  Sensitivity to light
+  Sensitivity to noise
+  Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
+  Concentration or memory problems
+  Confusion
+  Just not 'feeling right' or is 'feeling down'

Table 1: Symptoms, cognitive impairments and
performance difficulties associated with concussion

CONCUSSION REPORTING
A sports medicine professional is responsible for diagnosing, managing and making critical return-to-play decisions on behalf of an athlete that suffers a concussion; however, the “invisible” nature of this injury discussed above can make these responsibilities difficult. Unlike other injuries, detecting a concussion often relies on an athlete telling coaches, parents or sports medicine personnel that they are experiencing symptoms such as headaches or balance problems. Athletes may not tell anyone about their symptoms because they do not want to be removed from participation or do not realize that these symptoms may be signs of a concussion. In addition, social pressures also may prohibit athletes from disclosing their symptoms for fear of ridicule by their teammates or coaches. As a result, many soccer-related concussions go undetected.

CONCUSSION MANAGEMENT
Experts that study the effects of concussion recently have made recommendations for managing this injury. They urge a conservative approach toward every concussion, regardless of severity, and stress that concussed athletes be prohibited from re-entering competition regardless of their status on the sideline. Allowing an athlete to return to play before the brain is completely healed can place that athlete at an increased risk of another concussion, long-term symptoms, severe cognitive difficulties and, in rare cases, death. Coaches need to realize the dangers associated with returning an athlete to play too soon and should work with sports medicine professionals to keep players safe and avoid these potentially dangerous consequences.


CONCUSSION TESTING

Computerized ImPACT testing can reveal the extent of a concussion and determine the athlete's fitness to return to play

A concussion can evolve in the days following injury. In addition to reported and observed symptoms, less overt mental changes can be readily tracked using a computerized neuropsychological test (e.g., ImPACT, CogSport). Computerized neuropsychological tests, which resemble simple video games and measure reaction
time, memory and processing speed, compare pre- and post-concussion
cognitive performance. This management tool is growing in popularity because of its cost effectiveness and ease of administration—most test licenses cost between $500 and $1,000 for a league or team. These tests provide a method of concussion management that is more reliable than self-reporting by athletes. It is recommended that whenever possible these concussion tests be used by soccer leagues or teams.

RETURN TO PLAY
In general, recovery from concussion can take three to 14 days. Numerous factors may influence the length of recovery time from concussion. Studies have shown that a prior history of concussion can lead to longer recovery times and higher risk for another concussion, especially in younger athletes. In addition, females have been found to be at a higher risk of concussion and take longer to recover than males. Factors such as age, gender and history of concussion make managing this injury difficult. Concussion is unpredictable, and no two athletes will exhibit identical symptoms.

Athletes are considered to be recovered when they are symptom-free at rest and during exercise; however, coaches and sports medicine professionals must count on athletes being truthful in reporting their symptoms during the recovery period. Again, athletes may lie about their symptoms in order to return to play before they are ready. Returning an athlete too soon can have serious consequences if that athlete suffers another concussion before the first one heals completely.

Studies have shown that cognitive recovery can be delayed for up to 24 hours after the concussion has occurred. Lingering effects from a concussion can increase the risk of a player sustaining another concussion or making their existing injury worse if they return to play too soon. This could result in a player missing even more time because of the concussion. In rare instances, players who sustain a minor blow to the head while still symptomatic from an ongoing concussion could die from something called Second Impact Syndrome.

If players still have any symptoms or cognitive problems, they should not be allowed to return to play. As a general rule, “when in doubt, leave them out.” In other words, err on the side of the player’s safety.

PROTECTIVE HEADGEAR: WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
In the past decade several companies (e.g., Full90, Kangaroo) have begun marketing protective headgear for soccer players. The purpose of protective headgear for soccer is to decrease the force of impact to the head from a ball, another player, ground or goalpost. Reducing these forces that are absorbed by the skull might, in theory, reduce the risk of concussion; however, there is debate surrounding the use of protective headgear in soccer. Some believe that protective headgear will provide a false sense of security, possibly encourage more risk-taking by players and possibly lead to the deterioration of heading skills. Others believe it is long overdue in the only sport where players purposely propel the ball with their heads.

Ross Paule of the Columbus Crew was forced to retire at age 29 because of post-concussion syndrome.

This debate, along with manufacturer claims regarding the effectiveness of their products, has prompted researchers to begin to evaluate the effectiveness of these products. Thus far, the research findings on headgear effectiveness are mixed. Findings do suggest that headgear is useful in reducing lacerations and bruises to the head and part of the face; however, most studies suggest that wearing these products will not reduce the risk for a concussion. Recent research concluded that headgear was not effective in decreasing the forces associated with heading a soccer ball, but might be effective in reducing forces associated with head-to-head contact. Earlier reports have found headgear to be effective at higher speeds, but not effective at lower speeds that are more common in soccer. There are few studies that have evaluated the usefulness of protective headgear in soccer, and there is a definite need for more studies in this area. However, coaches that support wearing these protective devices should understand that no current protective headgear will prevent a concussion in soccer.

SUMMARY
Concussion is an injury that coaches, parents and players should take very seriously. It may be difficult for players to admit to their coaches or sports medicine staff that they have concussive symptoms (i.e., headaches) for fear of being removed from participation or ridicule from teammates and others. However, coaches and parents should encourage athletes to be truthful about their injuries and support decisions made by their sports medicine staff members. They should also become familiar with the signs and symptoms of concussion and should not allow a player who has a concussion return to the field in the same game or practice. It is important for coaches not to pressure athletes into returning to play before they are completely recovered – even for a championship game. In most instances these decisions will be made by sports medicine personnel; however, club and recreational coaches often will find themselves as the only person in a position to make a return-to-play decision on the field. Coaches should err on the side of caution. Players will be served best if coaches support them and keep them involved with team functions and activities when they are injured. A concussed athlete may feel withdrawn from the sport environment, and coaches are in an ideal position to make athletes feel that they are still part of the team even when they are injured. In summary, concussion can be a serious injury if mismanaged, but with proper education and precautions, concussed soccer players can experience a full recovery and return successfully to participation.
 

SPEC PRESENTATION RECAP

On February 15th, 2011 the SoccerPlus Education Center invited Chris Hamblin of College Soccer Advantage to share his expertise and vast experience with the players, parents and coaches of SoccerPlus CT as they navigate their way through the college recruiting process.
 

Navigating the College Soccer Recruiting Process

1) RESEARCHING SCHOOLS

+  What do you want out of your college soccer career? Understand the challenges and rewards

+ College Soccer Opportunities, NCAA I, II & III, NAIA, NJCAA
 
   -  Total # of Men's Programs = 1,214 (NCAA = 783)
    -  Total # of Women's Programs = 1,367 (NCAA = 968)


+ 
Variables to Consider
 
  - Academic Level
   - Academic Offerings
   - Geographic Location
   - Climate
   - Size of School
   - Urban vs. Rural
   - Cost

 
  - Level of Soccer Program
   - Impact You May Have on Program

2) TARGETING SCHOOLS

+ Narrow down your list, find schools that will be the right fit
  
- Set realistic expectations both academically and athletically, use coaches for
     honest opinion
   - Watch college soccer
   - Understand the recruiting cycle, roster size, graduating class size
   - Student-Athlete not Athlete- Student
   - Understand what your role may be on a team, Impact, Core or Depth
 

Diagrams illustrating the role and impact a player may have at four different school

3) COMMUNICATING WITH COLLEGE COACHES

+ You have to self-recruit
  
- You can't start too early
   - Personalize all correspondence
   - Have a reasonable email address
   - Coaches have NCAA rules to follow in how they can respond
   - The power of a phone call
   - Make sure you send reminders to coaches before an event/showcase
   - Your soccer resume should include: contact information, graduation year, 
     academic details, soccer achievements, upcoming events, references and extra  
     circular activities
   - Be persistent in all communication, reach out every time there is an update in
     your academic or soccer career. Test scores, event results etc.

+ Visiting Campus
  
- Understand the difference between official and unofficial visits
   - Schedule a campus tour
   - May have meetings with coach, players and academic support
   - Be smart, behave. What you do during a visit will most likely get back to the
     coach

4) GETTING EVALUATED

+ Tournaments and Showcases

   - Maximize opportunity for evaluation with effective communication prior to the
     event
   - The coach is looking at your technical, tactical, physical, psychological and
     emotional components
   - Follow up after the event with a note to the coach, use your club coach as a point
     of contact

+ Camps and One Day Clinics
  
- Camps are opportunity for development, evaluation but are also sources of  
     revenue for the program
   - Make sure you attend camps that suits your needs, too many camps in a summer
     can burn you out
   - One day clinics offer a time and cost effective approach, allowing for evaluation
     and understanding

+ ODP, ID2, Select Programs
  
- College coaches are often on staff at these identification and development   
     programs
   - The environment is constantly changing, these programs are not necessary for 
     evaluation, but are another avenue for evaluation

+ Recruitment Videos (Consider SOCCER ASPECT)
  
- You will not get recruited solely from a video, but it may get the coaches
     attention, spark interest or support your application. It acts as your visual resume,
     it must provide an opportunity for evaluation
   - Understand the difference between a highlight reel and a recruitment video,
     coaches want context

5) MAKING AN INFORMED DECISION

+  Ask for Feedback from College Coaches
  
- Ask the hard questions, e.g. Do you think I would be a good fit for your
     program?
   - Be okay with rejection - The coach is looking to fill their needs and a 'no'
     narrows down your list.

+ The Reality of Soccer Scholarships
  
- Understand that soccer is an equivalency sport, and programs may not be funded
     to NCAA limits.
   - 2% of high school athletes will get a scholarship at an NCAA Division I or II
     institution (NY Times).
   - The average amount of athletic scholarships offered in equivalency sports is
     $10,000.
   - Division III programs may find ways to attractively package student-athletes.

+ The Admissions Process
  
- Admissions officers admit students, not coaches. Ask coaches for feedback on
   admissibility status.
   - Soccer may help you get into schools that may be out of your reach without
   athletic support.
   - Don't rely on soccer to get you into schools, work hard in the classroom to give
   you opportunity.

+ The NCAA Clearinghouse

  
- Clearinghouse refers to Division I and II only.
   - In order to participate in athletics and receive athletically based financial aid, you
     must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center and meet academic and amateurism
     eligibility standards.
   - Download guide for College-Bound Student-Athlete

Click here to learn more about the Clearinghouse

+ Parents Role in the Process
  
- Let the athlete lead the process, coaches want to deal with prospects not parents
   - Be realistic about your child's ability and opportunity.
   - Guide them, advise them and support them. Help organize the process and
     materials.

6) PREPARATION

+ After you commit you must prepare physically, technically, tactically, physiologically and emotionally for your college soccer experience. Don't think the journey is over - it's just begun.

Your process is unique - College Soccer Advantage offers a
 College Soccer Recruiting Program providing guidance through the process. Club discount available -
Click here to learn more

College Soccer Advantage Video is now Soccer Aspect.
Learn about our
Recruitment Videos Click Here

For information regarding upcoming events, please visit our website at soccerplus.org/education
 

Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic
Thank you to all the players, parents and coaches who participated in the
Soccer Champions Coaches' Clinic at Mohegan Sun last month. You all helped to make the event a huge success!
 
Click image below to view photo gallery slideshow in full:

SoccerPlus Education Center was founded by Tony DiCicco, former Head Coach of the US Women's National Team. The goal of SPEC is to develop not only better soccer players but also better citizens and leaders within the community. We will achieve this through educational programs, seminars, community outreach programs and individual mentoring on and off the soccer field. And to promote essential life values such as team work, leadership, and healthy living to the young people in our community. SoccerPlus Connecticut is a subsidiary of the SoccerPlus Education Center. For more information visit: soccerpluseducation.org


©2010 SoccerPlus Education Center
a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization


 

Soccer Without Borders Granada

The SoccerPlus Education Center is a proud sponsor of Soccer Without Borders Granada.

We have used your Kick Back donations to provide cleats for the players. For more information on the program and/or to contribute to some of their other needs see below:

The 2nd annual T.E.A.M. Camp and Coaches' Clinic in Granada starts in just two weeks. The volunteers in Granada have been working hard to get everything set up, and everyone is excited for this year's events. If you haven't checked out the blog lately, click here to see what's been going on.

They are also still in need of some key items that will make this camp a success. If you have considered donating to this cause in some way, we would really appreciate your support at this crucial time!

Two ways to donate are:
1) Check out our fundraising page and make a tax-deductible donation directly to this project
2) Take a look at our "Wish List" online that lists some of the equipment needs we still have to fill by following this ridiculously long link Something that may be just taking up space in your basement could be exactly what this project needs!

Education Center Uniform Drive

Coaches, Managers, Teams...
Enjoying new uniforms this season...donate your old uniforms to the KickBack Program.

Can your team collect a whole kit? We all know how it feels to be a part of a team. To put on your jersey and represent your town, club and team. Give this opportunity to others as many teams can’t afford matching uniforms or uniforms at all.

Donations can be made at the Farmington Sports Arena in the KickBack bin upstairs. Can’t make it over to FSA? Contact us for pick up.
Help us make a difference in the lives of others.
 

SoccerPlus KickBack Program
The Kickback Program provides soccer clubs and programs, both in the United States and abroad, with soccer supplies needed to provide children the opportunity to play soccer.

The program collects and donates old and new uniforms, balls, cleats and equipment. All equipment is greatly appreciated. Read More
 

Update on Operation Soccer Ball…
UNCLASSIFIED
Just a quick update on Operation Soccer Ball.. I am at my new location, Al Kut, Iraq.

Already we have given out 1,300 balls and loads of uniforms and I have 1500 balls and 500 more uniforms on the way. Thanks for your support.
V/R- LT MERRITT Read More

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SoccerPlus Education Center - A 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization Est. 2006 - All Rights Reserved © 2008