As the Fall semester of my Junior year begins to wind down, the prevalence of concussion-related stories in the news continues to grow. As reported by CNN, U.S. Soccer, the organization that oversees the sport for the entire country, declared that a new protocol would be put into place that states that players ten years old and younger will not be allowed to head the ball, and that players under thirteen years old will have limited exposure to headers in practice (Botelho). This is a huge development in the sport and one that has turned a lot of heads.
My stance on these new rules is that the pros outweigh the cons. This protocol aims to develop habits in this country’s young soccer players that will make it so they are less inclined to do headers in the future, which therefore decreases the risk of concussion. The more time players spend with the ball at the their feet when they are young, the more comfortable they will be with the ball, and the more willing they will be to keep the ball on the floor when they play.
Objectors argue that heading is a crucial part of the game and that not learning how to do so in the earliest stages of player development will make our countries talent pool less competitive on the world’s stage.
However, detractors of how soccer is played in the United States often cite that our players need to improve their technique with the ball at their feet, and putting less emphasis on heading the ball will help make this a reality. Additionally, I believe that heading technique is much more easily learnable in older age groups than in younger age groups. It does not take many years to master how to head the ball, yet you can always get better at dribbling and passing with your feet. I would also imagine that the teaching of heading technique will be systematized across the country now that the new rules are in place, and if U.S. Soccer makes it a priority to outline for coaches how to teach heading, players will learn at the right time how to correctly head the ball.
The point of these changes are to establish better habits in our young soccer players so that the relative importance that they place on doing headers in games is reduced. Though the reality is that headers are a part of soccer, we can teach our youth soccer players that there are ways to have success on the field that put their heads at less risk. I think it is important that U.S. soccer keeps track of concussion statistics over the next few years in order to have empirical evidence to show our teams are doing better while at the same time being safer. I think that this result will indeed be the case, but it is important to have the numbers to back up this claim.
U.S. Soccer has made great progress with their awareness of concussions in youth athletics, and I hope that important athletic organizations continue to address this issue. If you are reading this post and would like to speak to me about topics including the new U.S. soccer protocol, Countywide Concussion Care, or concussion awareness, feel free to reach out to me on the Contact Us page. Thanks for reading!
Botelho, Greg. “U.S. Youth Soccer Players Told: Don’t Head the Ball.” CNN. Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 10 Nov. 2015. Web.