In an attempt to protect young athletes, U.S. Soccer has put in place several initiatives that took effect January 2016, addressing matters such as head injuries and banning “headers” for younger children.
According to U.S. Soccer’s Concussion Initiative, players under 11-years-old are banned from engaging in heading the ball, in both practices as well as games.
While U.S. Soccer cannot ban headers across the board in all organizations, they have strongly recommended that other organizations adopt their policy.
I can see both the benefits and the disadvantages of this rule.
It may be a step in the right direction for protecting our children from head injuries as at that age, children’s brains are still developing and their necks are not very strong, but studies show that the act of heading the ball is not what causes the largest number of head injuries in soccer.
Slamming into another player is what causes the most injuries, so unless rules are set forth to limit the amount of contact between players, I feel the ruling will not be entirely effective.
Data from a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics indicated that player-to-player contact, accounting for more than 60 percent of head injuries, was the main factor in surveyed concussions. Heading the ball did play a role as well, accounting for over 20 percent of injuries. Seeing as this rule is only regulated in the leagues governed by U.S. Soccer, it could set future generations of potential national team players back when it comes to technique.
The United States already faces a number of challenges when it comes to competing against the world’s best, and it would seem as if this new ruling would only intensify these challenges in the future.
The U.S. Men’s Soccer Team has yet to win a World Cup title and they have been training without any rules acting as hindrances toward their growth as players.
As a soccer coach myself, I understand it is extremely important to keep children safe, that is one of the main priorities that I have as a coach. It is, however, also important to be able to teach children the proper techniques which will actually keep them safe.
The biggest concern I have with the ruling is that we will be teaching young players to be afraid of the ball and duck away, avoiding heading it at all costs, until one day when they hit the magic age of 12 and they can all of a sudden put that all out of their minds and start heading the ball.
I do not wholeheartedly disagree with the ruling, as I can see how it may keep our children safer in the long run, but I find it hard to completely come to terms with it.
Kat Simonelli, a senior communications major, is managing editor for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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