U.S. soccer bans heading in youth soccer

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The United States Soccer Federation announced it’s prohibiting children under the age of 11 from heading soccer balls.

This regulation comes after a lawsuit filed in 2014 against U.S. Soccer and several other national soccer organizations . But are headers in youth soccer the underlying problem when it comes to concussions?

“It’s really based more on fear than the actual science,” said Summer Ott, the Director of the Concussion Program at Memorial Hermann.

Ott said although most concussions in soccer happen when heads collide with one another or when a players head may hit the ground after falling, she believes the intentions of the new regulations are good.  

“I think it's important for the public to know that headers traditionally don't produce concussions.”

She said the notion that heading a soccer ball may be causing long term development issues in young athletes is more of a theory than it is a fact. The decision to ban heading for youth soccer players came after some litigation that youth soccer organizations may be negligent in recognizing concussions in young athletes. A lawsuit was filed against several soccer organization in 2014.

“I think people just don't want to wait until they have proof which isn't necessarily a bad thing,” she said.

But some youth coaches in the area said it could be a bad thing for young players trying to develop their skills

“The sooner you learn a skill the better you are when you're older,” said Matthew Smith, a staff coach with Houston Texans Soccer. “I've seen more injuries through youth and myself playing that had nothing to do with head balls than anything else so it was a little bit surprising.”

“To me efforts spent on diagnosis and management would be much more effective than maybe something that isn't backed yet by science,” added Ott.