Fewer Headers, More Footers

Fewer Headers, More Footers

On Monday, U.S. Soccer announced new initiatives aimed at improving safety with respect to head injuries in soccer. The policy sets strict limits on youth players heading the ball. These initiatives come in response to and serve as a resolution to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed against U.S. Soccer in August of 2014.

U.S. Soccer has made the new regulations regarding heading of the ball mandatory for all youth national teams and academies, including Major League Soccer youth teams, but can only offer recommendations for other soccer associations and programs outside of their direct control. Under the policy, players younger than 10 years of age will be prohibited from heading, while players age 11 to 13 will reduce head usage during practice.

“What we’re establishing is creating parameters and guidelines with regards to the amount of exposure to potential head injuries”, George Chiampas, U.S. Soccer’s chief medical officer, said in a conference call with reporters. He added that the science on concussions and youth soccer was still evolving, and so would U.S. Soccer’s policies.

Included in the new changes are proposed modifications to the substitution rules regarding players suspected of suffering from a concussion. The English Premier League has instituted concussion protocols that may serve as a reference point, but the full details on U.S. Soccer’s policy changes will be announced in the next 30 days. Currently, the official FIFA Laws of the Game only allow for three substitutions per game at the senior level, and have no provision for temporary substitutions, or other alternatives in the event a player is suspected of being concussed during a match.

What do you think about U.S. Soccer’s new safety initiatives? Will removing heading from youth teams will impact player development? Let us know in the comments below


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    Clearly something needed to done. However, a recent study suggested that head to head collisions were a major cause for the increase in concussions among girls and women which is higher than for boys, not directly heading the ball. How we play the game does matter, but that study also suggested how we teach the game matters as much if not more. USSF soccer would do itself some good by including in their initiatives how the changes they propose will be taught in their courses and how they will evaluate if their efforts to educate coaches are successful. These symbolic yet meaningful changes are important, but USSF falls short on the follow through and follow up of collecting evidence that their initiatives work or are working and that the game is really improving for all kids.

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    As much as I am torn on this decision, I have to ask…when will new rules protecting goalkeepers be put in place? Or even discussed? After sitting on the sideline this past season watching the beatings my daughter took inside HER box, it completely baffled me that not one time was the opposing girl charged with any fouls. There are differences between following a shot and plowing over the goalie. I even have pictures. It is VERY disturbing how much lack of respect there is for goalies and their safety.

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      Great point Amber. I’m not aware of any new rules specifically for goalkeepers, but from what you’re saying it sounds like you’ve identified the big issue that US Soccer has yet to truly address: referees. Too often games are officiated by referees with insufficient experience and/or knowledge of how to interpret the laws of the game.

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