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Eyewitness News iTeam special report takes look at concussion dangers in youth soccer

Eyewitness News iTeam special report takes a look at concussion dangers in youth sports. (WCHS/WVAH)

Another football season has arrived, and with it, renewed interest in the concussion debate that has caused a ripple effect from the top on down.

The NFL continually is tweaking its rules and financing studies to learn more about the lifelong effects of a violent sport. And parents are steering their young kids away from the football field, toward other sports and hobbies,

In this Eyewitness News iTeam special report, we take a look at another youth sport being played by millions right now, that might not be getting enough attention.

Like millions of soccer moms across the country, Rachael Cipoletti is always prepared, whether it's with supplies for the team or encouragement for her daughters.

But what she wasn't ready for was seeing the results of a 10-year study that found when it comes to concussions in all scholastic sports, girls soccer poses the greatest risk.

"It looks like it's supported by a lot of medical evidence that's coming out, so anything that I'm gonna let my kids do that may increase their chance of any injury, let alone a head injury, is alarming,” Cipoletti said.

Players can hurt their heads in a lot of different ways on a soccer field, so now engineers and scientists are wrapping their heads around the issue.

Inside a really cool and pioneering sports science laboratory at Virginia Tech, a group led by Dr. Steve Rowson is investigating concussions, and the most effective ways to prevent them.

They just released the first ever ratings for soccer headgear and say the risk in the girls sport could be reduced by as much as 70 percent with the use of padded headbands.

"Even though on any given play you might be more likely to get hurt playing football, you play soccer more, and that's more exposure and more possibility of getting hurt,” Rowson said.

Ali Krieger plays professionally for Orlando, and is one of the few elite women's players who has worn it. But the fact is - across all levels - the use of protective headgear is almost non-existent.

Olympic and World Cup champion Briana Scurry knows all too well about concussions. A vicious one in 2010 ended her professional career, and changed her life.

"I had high levels of anxiety all of a sudden, and complete inability to focus,” Scurry said. “I actually saw a picture of myself when I was playing in that time and I'm like - I know that's me, but I don't know how, and I don't know if I'm ever going to be that woman again. And it broke my heart. It broke my heart."

It's her belief that all girls, of all ages, should consider protecting their heads and their futures, by wearing headbands.

"If it works and it dissipates the force, I don't see anything wrong with it,” Scurry said.

And the science says it works so why don't more girls wear them? It could be because they see headbands mostly being worn by players who have already suffered a concussion.

"They see it as something has happened that's resulted in them wearing this right now. They're not seeing it as a preventative measure," Cipoletti said.

So it might just take a rules change to change the dinner table conversation about wearing padded headbands.

"If it were required then yes, I would force them to, just like I force them to wear their shin guards," Cipoletti said.

And without the next generation of soccer stars embracing head protection as the new normal, the worry is that concussions may continue to plague one of the nation's most popular youth sports.

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