CONCUSSION SOCCER

Phoenix Soccer Academy taking on concussions

Concussions can happen in any sport. They can affect professional athletes, all the way to our little ones. While concussions can be a serious issue, resting the brain is key when it comes to getting back out on the sports field.

This is something that hit close to home for one Phoenix soccer academy. They’re now arming parents, coaches and players with all kinds of information.

“I love playing,” Cesar Cruz said. “I love the sport.”

Cesar, 14, started playing soccer at the age of 5.

“I like the competitiveness and it’s also fun to make friends,” Kaitlyn Veloria said.

Kaitlyn, 12, also started kicking the ball around at an early age. She and Cesar both play club ball with Excel Soccer Academy in Phoenix. But recently, Cesar and Kaitlyn had to sit on the sidelines.

“Headed the ball and I crashed into one of my teammates,” Cesar said. “I just remember being on the floor, like I started bleeding from my nose.”

“I was playing defense and I was running to catch this girl,” Kaitlyn said. “I kind of slid and this girl kicked me in the back of the neck.”

The Excel Soccer Academy players both suffered concussions.

“We want to take it a step further and really work with Barrow Neurological Institute,” said Stryker Aguilar, director of coaching at Excel Soccer Academy in Phoenix. “They’re a leader in this field and it’s time someone at the club level really steps up.”

Aguilar invited Dr. Javier Cardenas from St. Joseph’s Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix to talk to his club about concussions.

“The most important point that I would like to make to you is that when somebody has a concussion, they must not be in a position to sustain another concussion,” Cardenas said.

The doctor said returning a young athlete to play before he or she has recovered can be dangerous. One way to protect them from coming back too early is an Arizona youth concussion law.

“In the event of a concussion, the athlete is required to leave play or practice, not to return the same day and then they must be cleared by a qualified health care professional,” Cardenas said.

Education is also a key part of the law.

High school athletes from around the state are required to take Barrow Brainbook, an online interactive tool about concussions. They must also take a test and pass with a certain score.

“In the next few months, we’re actually going to provide Barrow Brainbook for youth sports,” Cardenas said. “We’re going to allow them access to the education, which they currently have now, however they will have full access to the education.”

The doctor said the goal is to create a separate concussion program for youth sports and club organizations. But until then, Cardenas had some advice.

“They should have a strategy of what occurs in the event of a concussion and they should have a strategy for returning an athlete to play safely,” he said.

The Excel Soccer Academy is already ahead of the game.

“I think people can get caught up in a situation where we’re about to win this game, are you all right, we have to get you back in, and it’s not about that,” Aguilar said. “It’s about the kids being safe.”

Kaitlyn returned to play a week after her concussion and Cesar just came back after being out for almost a month.

“The doctor told me, ‘You get a second or third one [concussion] you might not be able to play the sport again,’” Kaitlyn said. “So I would rather sit out for a couple weeks than sit out for the rest of my life.”

Excel Soccer Academy is part of the Arizona Youth Soccer Association (AYSA). They have a concussion policy that all soccer players, parents/guardians and coaches must follow.

For more information on how to access the Barrow Brainbook or have Cardenas come speak at your youth sports organization or club, visit click here.

Brandy AguilarPhoenix Soccer Academy taking on concussions