Youth football has been facing public critique and declining participation over recent years due to its association with head injuries.
With the number of parents ready to withdraw their children from the sport already at an all-time high, The American Journal of Sports Medicine released survey results indicating that football does indeed experience the greatest incidence of concussions among high school athletes.
However, little attention has been drawn to the second highest concussion sport – girls’ soccer.
Headers in soccer and the collisions that often go hand-in-hand with them, are a leading cause of concussion in today’s world of youth sports.
As this fact continues to fly under the radar, soccer’s governing bodies have yet to create one universal set of guidelines when it comes to introducing headers in youth soccer.
The majority of organizations discourage teaching young athletes headers until they reach the age of ten. Others choose not to introduce the technique altogether.
The thought of eliminating headers from the game of soccer has sparked recent controversy in the sports community.
For dedicated soccer fans, heading (especially at higher levels of play) is a critical part of the game. Professional players like Abby Wambach – having scored more than 40 percent of her record number of goals in international competition with her head – act as an example of the importance of headers.
They believe that if players plan to use their heads at upper levels, the safest approach is to teach them how to use their heads correctly at a young age.
The proper technique requires the player to propel their forehead straight forward through the ball, using their arms and torso to generate force.
However, a player rarely heads the ball with ample time to position their body correctly. When fighting over a ball mid-air the players often have to creatively aim, causing them to strike the ball to the side.
Hitting the ball straight-on can cause the brain to accelerate in line with the skull, but hitting at an angle can cause the brain to twist within the skull – causing damage.
World Cup soccer star, Brandi Chastain, is stepping in to support a new rule change requiring that no headers be allowed for players under 14 years old.
Chastain has been promoting the Safer Soccer Campaign to raise awareness about the relationship between heading the ball and concussions.
The Safer Soccer Campaign believes that youth coaches can take pre-emptive steps to reduce the risk of concussions, starting with placing a higher emphasis on footwork rather than headers. As an added bonus, players will develop stronger fundamental skills as a result.
Safer Soccer and Chastain recommend not introducing young athletes to headers until they enter high school, after their brains have had a chance to develop.
What do you think about the potential ban on headers? Leave a comment in the section below to let us know how you feel about a future regulation change!
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