Heads Up: New U.S. Soccer guidelines may signal the end of headers in youth soccer

Posted By on Nov 11, 2015 | 0 comments

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Wednesday, November  11, 2015 | BataviasBest.org


In order to resolve a class-action lawsuit which pertains to the high rate of header-caused concussions in the game of soccer, U.S. Soccer has announced it will issue new guidelines which have halted the use of the header at the youth level – specifically for players ages 10 and under. In addition, players 11-13 will only be allowed to head the ball during practices going forward, and will not be allowed to do so during games. The aforementioned lawsuit was formed by a group of parents and players, who placed culpability at the feet of  U.S. Soccer, along with FIFA and the American Youth Soccer Organization, who they believe have shown a reluctance to act on the growing concern related to head injuries in the sport.

This is big news for youth soccer organizations around the country, the spectrum of which has grown tremendously over the past several years.

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Now, at the 10 and under level I highly doubt many headers are attempted due to the ball very rarely leaving the playing surface. I mean, I have watched some 10 year old soccer in my day and during those games I was lucky to see the ball leave the ground 2 or 3 times during the duration of the contest. However, for those players who do not take issue with heading in soccer, who also possess aspirations of performing at the next level, they may see things differently. For having to wait until age 11 to even practice a skill that is so vital to playing the game at a higher level could be detrimental to that player’s development in the long run, and may lead to concerns of a different nature.

All this being said, no matter a player’s future aspirations of playing at a higher level, or other concerns related to the guideline adjustment, for anyone to ignore the presence of head injuries in soccer, or undermine the overall impact concussions have had on the sport’s participants, would be ignorant to say the least.

As was noted in the class-action lawsuit formed by a group of parents and players in U.S. District Court in California, according to the New York Times, a study discovered that more high school soccer players suffered concussions (50,000) in 2010 than athletes in other sports such as basketball, wrestling, softball, baseball combined. Meaning soccer, a sport which has been widely viewed as a low-contact, safe alternative to a more physically demanding activity such as football, may not be so safe and as low-contact as we once believed.

But earth to America – NO SPORT IS SAFE.

As a matter of fact, sports are dangerous, and they will remain dangerous until contact in athletics is disallowed altogether. And even then, non-contact injuries will continue to take place, meaning there is no true solution to any injury problem in sports. Whether we change the rules to limit contact, adjust the guidelines to eliminate a certain aspect of the game, or eliminate contact all together, all areas of athletics will continue to carry a chance of injury – with some sports possessing a higher chance than others. Meaning, until movement is completely eliminated (and it seems as if we are heading there), injuries will continue to take place at all levels of sport. It is simply the nature of the beast.

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In accordance with my opinion is ESPN Radio’s Danny Kanell, whose show I was listening to this afternoon, as during the second hour of Russillo and Kanell he commented on how sports-related safety concerns and their prevalence now a days has reached a fever pitch. Kanell also expressed how he believes that the mentality that surrounds youth soccer, and sports in general for that matter, is becoming, for lack of a better word, soft. In his eyes, much like what I believe, those involved in athletics should come to the realization that injuries are a part of sports, and instead of parents solely preaching safety to their children who play, they should provide them with the toughness needed to handle the rigors of sport as well.

The former New York Giants quarterback also went on to provide an example of how he applies his point of view while raising his two daughters. Kanell described instances when he and his young daughters have gone outside in the yard to have a little fun with the football, and instead of simply letting them play with the ball he will in fact roughhouse with them in hopes of providing them with a sense of toughness. He even went as far to say that he will actually tackle them – which led to a ‘Huh?’ from the show’s producer.

Now, all this talk about toughness is not meant to convey that one should ‘push through’ or ‘tough out’ a concussion – I do not believe that by any means. Head injuries are something to be taken seriously, even at the lowest grade.

Be that as it may, from my perspective, the long list of these new rules and adjusted guidelines aimed at protecting our athletes from said head injuries will never live up to what they’re promised to be. Conversely, all these efforts to ensure safety within athletics will ever amount to is a simple distraction from the truth:

Those who choose to play sports have a high risk of getting injured in many different ways, and most likely will be injured at some point during their playing career. That fact will never change.


Now that you’ve read my opinion, what do you think?


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