Athletes are at a higher than average risk for a mild traumatic brain injury or concussions due to the nature of their sports and the mechanism of these injuries. And nowhere is this risk more evident than in youth soccer.
So when we read recently, in the New York Times 10/26, about a soccer mom who had developed a new ball that could reduce injuries we were intrigued.
The soccer mom turned soccer ball manufacturer is Majken Gilmartin. She is from Denmark and the balls are called the Eir Ball. They are smaller and lighter and made from softer materials than a normal regulation soccer ball.
Here is why size matters.
Around the age of 12 or 13 soccer players move from the balls that they have been using in children’s leagues and on to the size used by professionals. These balls are designed for adults. The problem is the balls are significantly larger and heavier than what the children have been using and can cause injuries with smaller players for a variety of reasons. The larger size of these balls can cause younger players to fatigue faster, further increasing the risk of injury. The greater weight of the ball, in proportion to a young teen or preteen’s body, can also increase the risk of head injuries when the ball is head-butted by a player. In 2007, Ms. Gilmartin noticed that her daughter and teammates fatigued faster while using the larger adult size balls. So, she decided to do something about it.
Here’s what she did.
Ms. Gilmartin was not just a soccer mom but a former player and coach and filmmaker and organizer of soccer tournaments in Copenhagen. She developed a ball using materials from Korea and Japan and manufactured it in India. The Eir Ball is 26.4 inches in circumference and weighs 13 ounces. It’s up to 3 ounces lighter and 1 1/2 inches smaller than a professional sized ball. The softer material used also helps prevent the ball from absorbing water when wet, which can make soccer balls heavier and harder.
The Danish Football Association has approved and allowed the use of Eir Balls in girl’s and women’s recreational games since 2010.
Ms. Gilmartin has convinced soccer clubs and players all over Denmark to purchase and use her ball. 16,000 have been sold. She has brought in a partner to expand the business and is looking for retailers in the United States.
One of the additional positive aspects of the Eir Ball is that because they are smaller and lighter their use may increase the speed of the game and the number of goals scored. And this would certainly improve the sports popularity with American audiences.
Over 1.5 million individuals in the US are treated every year for a traumatic brain injury (TBI). These injuries range from an mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) or concussion to a severe TBI, which can require emergency brain surgery.
We support any attempt in any area of life to reduce the risk of these injuries, especially where youth are concerned.
So, we wish Ms. Gilmartin much success.