Are We Nearing The End Of The Header?

The powers that be at U.S. Soccer are taking a stand on concussions.

Concussions aren’t a new problem. In fact, they've been a problem for quite some time now.

While everyone has their own opinions when it comes to this injury and the protocols taken to assess concussions, U.S. Soccer is taking a step toward stopping the problem completely. U.S. Soccer has banned MLS youth leagues and U.S. National Team academies must prohibit players aged 10 and under from taking headers in games and practice, and players aged 11-13 from taking headers in games.

Heading the ball may not seem severe compared to other actions in soccer that can cause injury (slide tackling, colliding with a goal post or other player) or even compared to, say, an American Football player hitting helmets with an opposing player.

Headers are dangerous acts though.  A study from the American Medical Association reported that 4.7 percent of concussions suffered by boys soccer players came directly from headers and 30.6 percent came during the act of heading. Those numbers are similar for girls soccer plauers, at 8.2 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively.

Concussions are very dangerous injuries to sustain and sometimes can be tough to self-diagnose. Take for example Christoph Kramer in the 2014 World Cup final. Kramer got hit hard in the head, though not by heading the ball, he was taken off but basically went right back into the game and immediately started to act different, walking around and having a dazed and confused look on his face.

Another example is Morgan Brian of the U.S. Women's National team, who collided very hard with an opposing player, causing the other player to bleed. Each player was capable of walking to the sideline on their own, which sparked the referee to wave them back onto the field, neither player having shown symptoms since the collison. 

By implementing this rule in our youth soccer programs here in the U.S. we can set a new standard for other leagues all over the world to take initiative to decrease the number of head injuries in soccer.

Taking headers out of the game sounds drastic, but if we teach the youths to not use their head from a young age we can prevent their careers ending early due to head injuries.

The fact of the matter is it could save a life and rather than waiting till someone dies to change something the U.S. is taking a step toward ensuring that doesn't. 

One solution to the problem could be head gear such as UNEQUAL headgear, worn by USWNT defender Ali Krieger.

Unlike old-fashioned rugby headgear worn by the liks of Petr Cech, UNEQUAL headgear is less bulky and covers your head like a headband or pre-wrap would, but offers the same protection as the rugby style helmet.

I look at this as a positive movement going forward that is bringing the game to a more modern place.

For more information on the U.S. Soccer concussion guidelines click here.

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