Several notable developments occurred this past week focusing on youth soccer – and most notably – on concussions and especially with girls and women who play soccer.
Let me start by giving you the headlines and we’ll go from there:
A new study, just published by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, says that most concussions in youth soccer are NOT caused by heading the ball…but rather by athlete-to-athlete physical contact, such as jumping up for a loose ball and banging an opposing player’s head, or getting hit in the head by an opponent’s shoulder or elbow. Or when a player is tripped and falls to the ground, banging their head, or being crashed into as a goalkeeper.
Yes, heading a ball was still the most common way to suffer a concussion, but this study made it clear that MOST concussions were caused by physical and aggressive play.
But overall – and this is significant – female soccer players were much more likely to suffer concussions than their male counterparts. Girls averaged 4.5 concussions per 10,000 games or practice, whereas the boys averaged only 2.87 per 10,000.
The conclusion from this medical paper was that soccer officials working games really need to step up and do a much better job of enforcing the rules of the game so that there is less physical contact and less aggressive play, and thereby that would reduce the number of concussions.
Now, that may be easier said than done. If you haven’t seen a HS or travel soccer match recently, trust me, they are very physical. Soccer is indeed a big-time contact sport.
Let me go on….
There was a class action lawsuit brought against FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, which claimed that FIFA and other soccer organizations need to change the rules of the sport in order to limit the risk of concussions and other head injuries to kids who play the sport.
That lawsuit, which was brought by seven amateur soccer players, was concerned that rough and aggressive play needs to be reined in. They were asking that heading be limited with younger players, making it easier to substitute in a game if a player suffers an apparent head injury, and so on.
But a federal judge in Oakland, CA, dismissed the case against the plaintiffs, saying that they could not use the court system to change FIFA’s rules….and furthermore, it was the plaintiffs own choice to play soccer; in other words, by choosing to play soccer, they were taking on the assumption of the risk of getting hurt.
The judge ruled that not only was the court system not the right venue to change the sport’s rules, but if you don’t want your kid to get hurt playing soccer or suffer a concussion, then don’t play the sport.
That may be a bit harsh…but that’s what the court ruled.
For soccer parents, and especially whose whose girls play soccer, this is all a bit disturbing. Yes, we all want our kids to continue to play soccer and to reap all the benefits of the game, but as several of the callers mentioned today (and especially the coaches), too often the games are becoming more chippy and physical, and the officials need to take more control.