Injuries and sports go hand in hand. That’s a given. But what about the injury that you can’t see? In the United States, the Sports Legacy Institute are trying to make soccer safer for young players by delaying heading.
The concussion in soccer debate has raised its head again during the Women’s World Cup. There has been several head collisions with some players wearing Petr Cech-style protective headgear. Collisions are part of the game, but the threat of concussions and head injuries are very real. Twitter has been alight with former players and pundits saying that FIFA are not doing enough to make the game safer for their players.
The Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) are one of the leading organisations in the study of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups in the United States. Their main focus of research is on concussion in sport. As well as advocating safety measures in the NFL, they are also involved with Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and soccer.
The Safer Soccer Campaign was launched in 2014. The SLI, along with Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE), want to delay young players heading the ball. The goal of the campaign is, “to educate parents, coaches and soccer stakeholders on the benefits of delaying the introduction of headers in youth soccer until high school/age 14.” By 2017, it is hoped that youth soccer organisations will not allow heading in under-14s.
Several soccer organisations, such as the US Soccer Federation, recommend introducing heading at age 10. It may seem like a small or insignificant change but continuous heading can damage the brain. In young people, it can be even more detrimental. Heading the ball accounts for nearly 1/3 of all concussions in youth soccer.
Former WWE wrestler, Mick Foley tweeted his support for the campaign, revealing that his first concussion came as a result of a header.
Did you know my first concussion was from a soccer header at age 12? Use hashtag #NoHeaderNoBrainer to make youth soccer safer for kids.
— Mick Foley (@realmickfoley) June 19, 2015
American soccer players, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and former US Women’s soccer coach, Tony DiCicco, have announced their support of the campaign. Chastain, a two-time Women’s World Cup winner, is a recent convert to the Safer Soccer Campaign.
Whether something like this will be introduced here is another thing. Soccer, or football as we call it, has been around here much longer than in the US. It might be more difficult to bring in a headers ban on youth players. It is something every player does. Be it in a kick-about at school or a league match at the weekend.
It is something to consider though – to protect the next generation of players.
Eilís Brennan, Pundit Arena