CTE is not just a football problem. Researchers have found the condition in the brain of Patrick Grange, a 29-year-old former college soccer player at New Mexico. Grange, who was diagnosed with ALS at 27, was considered at “Stage 2” on the four-stage scale of severity.
“He had very extensive frontal lobe damage,” said Dr. Ann McKee, the neuropathologist who performed the brain exam on Grange. “We have seen other athletes in their 20s with this level of pathology, but they’ve usually been football players.”
Concussions have been an ongoing issue in soccer. ESPN analyst and former MLS star Taylor Twellman notably retired in 2010 after suffering multiple concussions. The sport has an issue with the treatment and management of concussions, even at the highest level. Everton striker Romelu Lukaku was knocked out cold while scoring a goal in September. He did not remember scoring, but continued to play. There are also the repetitive, sub-concussive impacts from heading the ball.
Soccer, like American football, may be looking at substantial rule changes in the near future. Those may include helmets, changes to substitution rules and regulation of heading at youth level.