Commentary – US Soccer Got it Right
Commentary – US Soccer Got it Right avatar

US Soccer’s effort to ban heading for players under 10 years old has sparked an outcry with reaction ranging from, it’s about time, to this will be the death of soccer in America!KAPOSVAR, HUNGARY - MARCH 21- Peter Ignac (in yellow) in action at the Hungarian National Championsh So, what do I think? I think that US Soccer is doing the right thing. Simply put, I can’t muster up a whole lot of outrage against a proposal intended to help reduce the chance of brain damage in youngsters.

We have seen in recent years the that the “tough it out,” attitude of the old school is no longer the way to go. As a parent of two sons now in their 20’s I was guilty of it myself.

And when I played soccer and other sports growing up I certainly wanted to emulate that same attitude. I was under 10 years old in May 1970 when Willis Reed hobbled onto the court at Madison Square Garden damaged hip be damned, to inspire the Knicks to the NBA Championship title over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Like everyone else that I knew, I ate up with a spoon. Playing with pain was a badge of honor. In the NFL players got “their bell rung,” in MLB pitchers pitched on three days rest and threw 300 plus innings, where today’s star hurlers go every fifth day and 200 innings makes you a “warrior.”

But things have changed and even if old schoolers like me complain about it from time to time, we know that most of that change has come about because we simply know more about these things than we did back then.

And that’s a good thing.

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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9 Responses to Commentary – US Soccer Got it Right
Commentary – US Soccer Got it Right avatar

  1. I understand that players under 10 often don’t even have the neck dexterity to control headers. They just bump it. This part makes sense.

    As the father of a U12 player, I want to know exactly what the limitations will be. This is very vague. He can’t practice it with his team? Or, it can only be in certain contexts? I appreciate the concern for safety first, but there is a second concern for development. He’s not trying to learn bubble soccer here.

    I also have a concern about the medic requirement. My son is not in the USSF Academy. He plays in US Club Soccer. But if our organization follows suit, will parents be paying an EMT for all league matches? That could get expensive. Is this going to force a trend toward tournaments (where a shared medic is present) and away from leagues? This contradicts USSF’s calls to keep the training to match ratio at 2:1 or greater.

    • Peter Nolan says:

      You ask some good questions, especially in regard to non academy sides that I simply cannot answer.That may be evolving. As for practicing headers I would think that the 11-13 group should be able to practice heading the “right way” in a controlled manner. I wonder about the use of headgear for younger players, I didn’t see anything in the USSoccer statement on that.

      A couple other general points. Kids can do what they want in pick up games, if kids still play pick up games. De-emphasizing heading the ball at a young age may prompt kids to learn toward better habits and skills. Short passing along the ground rather than hoof and hope.

      Saw a good suggestion to ban goalkeeper punts at certain levels. Would seem to eliminate a danger and possible improve gk distribution.

      • I agree banning goalkeeper punts at younger ages would force playing out of the back and promote better technical development. It would also reduce the “cheap win” factor when a team has a goalkeeper who can punt big and a fast striker on a small-sided field. Not that another player can’t send the long ball, but it would improve the game.

  2. Did headgear ever enter the discussion? I’ve read some articles of pros and cons of headgear, but never have heard from U.S. Soccer or FIFA regarding the subject.
    Proper training and headgear would reduce the overall concussion rates. It seems drastic to eliminate heading the ball vs. proper training. When the youth are are U14 and just learning the heading, we’ll be behind in that aspect of the game in less than a decade.

    • Peter Nolan says:

      Saw no mention of headgear. Surprised. I don’t know if it has been proven effective, studies etc. Wouldn’t be surprised to see gk helmets become common eventually for young players. Cost would be an issue, but equiptment cost hasn’t slowed football participation. Another issue for another day.

  3. Lance Williams says:

    Can you or anyone out there provide a link to any modern study that shows a direct correlation between heading a soccer ball and concussion? Can you tell us what empirical evidence was used in support of the lawsuit?

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