In light of the recent airing of NBC’s Rock Center about the prevalence of concussions in girls’ soccer, the debate has begun about whether or not to ban heading in youth soccer games. I have highlighted the PROS and CONS about this topic:
The people that are for banning heading believe it will reduce the incidence of concussions in soccer games. If heading is banned, it would most likely reduce concussions, but not completely eliminate them, since concussions can happen from two players colliding.
Those who believe heading should stay a part of youth soccer believe that proper heading technique should be emphasized, such as making contact with the ball at the hardest part of the skull: the “hairline” area vs. the top part of the head. Also important is for the player heading to have their elbows up and pointed out to help protect themselves from another player possibly colliding into her (i.e. have “wings” up). There also has been discussion about proper conditioning to strengthen the neck muscles. Taking one step further, a company called Full90 is manufacturing protective headband gear to be worn in soccer games, and local teams are using them. It remains to be seen if protective headbands are effective in preventing concussions.
It is important to recognize that there are inherent risks in every sport, especially a high-impact, fast moving sport such as soccer. It is going to be up to the parents, coaches, and governing bodies such as U.S. Youth Soccer and AYSO to be a voice for the safety of youth soccer players, and to work with state authorities on regulations to enforce safety (i.e. Colorado law is that if a player is suspected of having a concussion, they must be pulled out of the game and not allowed to return to play until the player is cleared by a medical professional).