US Soccer Tells Youth: Don’t Head The Ball
In soccer, a player has two major ways to propel a ball forward and closer to the goal: either by using his legs or his head. While that formula still applies for the rest of the world, U.S. Soccer has ruled that American kids under the age of 13 are no longer permitted to tackle oppositions with headers.Advertisement
In an effort to reduce the risk of concussions, U.S. Soccer announced Monday that there should be no more heading for players under the age of 10. For kids between the ages of 11 and 13, the header is limited to practice only. Effectively, they still can’t use the header in a competitive game.
The ruling comes into effect immediately for those who participate in U.S. Soccer’s Youth National Teams and its Development Academy. In 2014, more than 3 million kids represented U.S. Soccer’s programs with a steady rise in the numbers as the sport continues to gain popularity in North America.
“Some of the youth members joining in the initiative do not have direct authority at the local level to require the adaption of the rules,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement, clarifying that it’s up to individual associations to adopt the new policy. “Although they are only recommendations, they are based on the advice of the U.S. Soccer medical committee, and therefore U.S. Soccer strongly urges that they be followed.”
The statement further reads, “Protecting the health and safety of athletes and preventing injuries is critically important to U.S. Soccer. U.S. Soccer has taken a lead in education, research and proposing rule changes to improve player safety for several years, and is looking forward to continuing in that leadership position with the release of the player safety campaign.”
The new initiative is a result of a concussion lawsuit filed against FIFA by parents. In August 2014, young players and their parents accused governing bodies including FIFA and the California Youth Soccer Association of acting “carelessly and negligently” and failing to protect young players.