The U.S. Soccer Federation recently issued new guidelines to limit heading the ball in young soccer players to help reduce head injuries.
The rules state children aged 10 and under will no longer be allowed to head the ball in practices or games, while players age 11 to 13 will only be allowed to do it during games, not practices.
This week, I spoke with 1590 WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about these restrictions. They come on the heels of last year’s lawsuit against FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation, which charged the organizations with negligence for not addressing concussions in the game.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, Ray. How are ya, this morning?
HORNER: I’m doing very well. How about yourself?
DR. CONGENI: Good. I’m doing good. Thank you.
HORNER: Yeah. What do you have?
DR. CONGENI: We talked about this one not long ago, but sure enough yesterday U.S. Soccer (Federation) came out with, you know, an edict of no more heading the ball for young soccer players.
Less than age 10, no heading at all and in-between 11 and 13 — this was a little strange — no heading in practice, but allowed [heading] the ball in games.
DR. CONGENI: … Did you see that?
HORNER: [laughter] I did see that, yes.
DR. CONGENI: Yeah, so the lawsuit last year against FIFA might have had something to do with this, but the fact of the matter is this is … not clear-cut like the first case we talked about. [There are] a lot more, um, people on both sides of the coin.
A lot of people are coming out, [saying it’s] changing the game. Kids won’t learn how to head the ball and other things … .
But it’s not, I’ve told you this, heading the ball that we’re as worried about. I mean, we’re worried some about that, but in the act of trying to head the ball, [it’s the] head-to-head, head-to-elbow, head-to-ground [contact] when 2 people go up at the same time to try to head the ball [we’re worried about].
And so overall, though I’m a little bit split on this topic, I’m in favor and … I can see less than 10 not heading the ball. I took care of and coached kids less than 10 and that’s just a motor skill and with head to head and other [concerns], I don’t think kids need to learn before age 10.
And, I’ve actually seen a study where they talked to some of the international players around the world who said, you know, they did not need to start heading the ball at a younger age like that and they felt certainly learning that skill as teenagers was plenty.
HORNER: I agree with you, Joe. You know, at that age when you’re talking about those youngsters 10 and below, they’re learning how to dribble the soccer ball. They’re learning how to move it up and down.
I think if they do try to head, they’re gonna run into the other kids’ heads and that’s exactly what you’re talking about.
DR. CONGENI: Exactly. See you next week.
HORNER: You got it. Dr. Joe Congeni from Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.