Soccer Star and Master of the Header Abby Wambach Talks Head Injuries in Sports

abby wambach kid reporter interview

Editor’s note: Yesterday, the 2015 Women’s World Cup-champion US Women’s National Team was honored at the White House by President Barack Obama. After the event, Abby Wambach, legendary USWNT member and the world’s all-time leading scorer in both men’s and women’s soccer, announced her retirement.

Wambach will play with the US team through its 10-game victory tour. But after a match against China on December 16, she’ll hang up her cleats.

Earlier this month, Kid Reporter Kate Gilliam interviewed Wambach at an event in New York City. Here is her report.

Sports-related concussions are a big concern, especially for youth athletes. Soccer poses the highest risk for these types of head injuries in girls, according to a 2012 report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

In early October Abby Wambach came to Chelsea Piers in New York City to discuss this issue and teach kids about the proper way of heading a soccer ball and other important soccer skills.

Wambach believes that head injuries are a very serious topic in the sports world right now and that young athletes need to be educated in a brief, simple way. “You want to give kids enough information so they can be smart,” said Wambach. “I think that common sense is a huge part of it. This needs to be taught at a young age.” 

Heading the ball can be a helpful skill to have, but if not done properly, it can be dangerous. Wambach mentioned that heading is not necessary until children reach the ages of 11 to 13. She also said that kids should know that if they feel that they have had a hard hit, they should speak up and not be afraid to come off the field. 

“I wonder how many people who have gotten sports-related concussions have reentered the game?” Wambach asked herself. This is the bigger issue. It’s hard for coaches to know what condition the athlete is in and whether or not he or she should come off the field. 

Many athletes who have gotten concussions reenter or stay in the game or continue to practice. By doing that, they can get even more hurt than they already are, which can lead to a more serious injury. 

Wambach spoke about Triax, wearable technology that can track how much g-force is in a specific blow to the head. Parents and coaches may be able to determine if a child needs to be looked at by a medical professional.

“We don’t want to scare kids off by saying, ‘If you don’t wear this, you’re going to get a concussion,’” said Wambach. “Most of us didn’t have technology, but by having it, it may help parents and coaches make healthy choices for their kids.” 

Triax held a virtual contest last month to win a soccer clinic with Wambach. The submissions had to represent player safety in terms of head injuries specifically. Ten winners were announced, and they were all given a Triax Sim-G headband and were invited to come to Chelsea Piers to meet Wambach and participate in a coaching session with her. 

Wambach said that doing simple things can help prevent a concussion or any other kind of sports injury. “Some of the biggest things that all athletes can use whether they’re young or old is to have a healthy lifestyle, [and] get exercise!” 

Concussions are a big problem for athletes of all ages. For now, they will always happen, but technology is helping the sports world explore ways to prevent them. 

Photo and video: Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan for

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