SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 2, 2013

Just for Kicks: Fenwick girls using their heads when it comes concussion prevention

By Gianna Addario
Sports writer

---- — Sports fans nowadays are probably familiar with football-related concussions and how severe they can be to an athletes health and well being.

Despite being less of a contact sport, girls soccer is seeing more and more concussion related injuries at the high school level. Soccer has one of the highest concussion rates of all sports and is the highest among women’s sports.Though concussions don’t stand out as much as a broken arm or leg does, the injury to the brain is even more serious.

Just as they wear protective shin guards, more and more soccer players are beginning to wear concussion prevention head gear. Six players on the Bishop Fenwick girls team have worn the bands since the beginning of the season; some for basic precaution and others for preventing another one from occurring.

“I’m not sure how well they work; I think the jury is still out on that,” said head coach Karen Guillemette. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing that they wear them, and they’re all choosing to do it on their own. It’s not something I told them to do and it’s not mandatory.”

Fenwick midfielder Emma Harrington missed the majority of last season after suffering a severe concussion. She wasn’t able to play contact sports for seven months because it was her fourth concussion in a five years.

“My mom wanted me to wear it, and the doctors suggested that if I was going to return to that game that I should have some protection,” noted Harrington. “I don’t remember what caused me to get the concussion or (what happened) the week after, but I do remember it was painful and couldn’t go in the light for a while. They told me I went up for a ball, collided with another girl and landed on my neck.”

The first few concussions Harrington was diagnosed with were relatively mild. The doctors told her that if she got hit in the head while wearing the band her brain will still get rattled, but it’s an extra layer of cushioning that her head doesn’t normally have.

“I think Emma needs to wear it,” Guillemette said. “Her concussion was pretty serious and anything like this is going to help prevent it for her.”

Junior defender Jenny Nasser of the Crusaders also started wearing the head gear because most of her North Shore United club team wears them. A lot of the girls on her club team have had concussions in the past and decided as a team it was the best form of prevention.

“It actually helps controlling the ball and playing it forward,” explained Nasser. “It also doesn’t hurt as bad taking headers. I think it helps. I’ve been hit in the face a few times and it’s definitely prevented me from getting whiplash.”

Center midfielder Jackie Edgett, who also plays on the same club team with Nasser, wears the head gear in both her club games and high school games. Edgett says that she feels safer with it on, but has never had a concussion to date.

Freshmen Alyson Charette, Emily Charette and Emily Smith are among the younger girls on the team that don the head gear.

“I think for the freshmen, it’s more their parents who wanted them to wear them, because they’re smaller playing on varsity,” added Guillemette. “Then they see some of the older girls wearing them and they feel more comfortable with them on.

“Part of me thinks that they all should wear them, but its not something that’s been mandated yet. Who knows? Maybe it will be if it’s proven that they really do prevent concussion. I told the girls that if they were going to wear them in the games that they had to wear them at practice too, because the feel is completely different when you go to head the ball.”

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In Monday’s game against Masconomet, the Hamilton-Wenham girls team had a number of scoring opportunities but couldn’t put them in the back of the goal.

“We hit the post or shot it over the bar and missed on a breakaway too,” said Generals’ head coach Alvi Ibanez. “Those are opportunities that we need capitalize on and do better. We need to learn to finish and make better decision. Our forwards just need to settle down a little bit more. I think it’s just a little anxiety that they have and try to rush it, rather than settling down.”

“The game was 6-2, but it could’ve been 6-6. A lot of their goals came from us mishandling the ball in the back. When you give a good team like that the ball, they’re going to make you pay.”

The good news is that the Generals have another chance later on in the season to face Masconomet again.

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As part of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month Danvers girls are holding a ‘Pink Out’ tonight at home against Salem.

Fans are encouraged to wear a pink shirt to support the teams. The team has chosen to wear pink socks in honor of those who have been affected by breast cancer, and there will also be a bake sale going on.

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Masconomet boys continue to dominate in Cape Ann League play. The Chieftains are 8-0 in league play and all eight wins have been shutouts. They’ve only allowed three goals all season, which came in exclusion games against St. John’s Prep and Somerville.

Masco went undefeated last season and earned the top seed in the Division 1 North tournament. After moving to Division 2 this year, they have another good chance at making a deep postseason run.

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Just For Kicks, a column on North Shore high school soccer, appears every Wednesday in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Gianna Addario at 978-338-2615, GAddario@salemnews.com and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.

NORTHEASTERN CONFERENCE LEADING SCORERS (GIRLS) BEVERLY - Caitlin Harty 21 Goals/ 7 Assists = 28PTS Eva Gourdeau 8 Goals/ 13 Assists = 21PTS DANVERS - Shannon Pohle 12 Goals/ 6 Assists = 18PTS Kylie Plaza 8 Goals/ 6 Assists = 14PTS MARBLEHEAD - Mia Bongiorno 9 Goals/ 4 Assists = 13PTS SALEM - Tayla O'Leary 10 Goals/ 2 Assists = 12PTS Deema Hijleh 8 Goals/ 4 Assists = 12PTS