U.S. Soccer curtails heading by young players

Boy heading soccer ball

RALEIGH (WTVD) — U.S. Soccer wants its youth leagues to cut back on heading, but changes aren’t coming in the form of mandates by the federation, but rather, as guidelines for individual leagues.

The federation is asking youth leagues around the nation to eliminate heading for players 10 and younger and restrict heading for players between the ages of 11 and 13, in the hopes of reducing the risk for concussions.

According to a statement from U.S. Soccer:

“These are recommendations for youth members because some of the youth members joining in the initiative do not have direct authority at the local level to require the adaption of the rules. Although these are only recommendations, they are based on the advice of the U.S. Soccer medical committee, and therefore U.S. Soccer strongly urges that they be followed.”

Capital Area Soccer League, a Wake County league with around 9,000 players, says it’s on board with recommendation because it’s not far from what their teams practice now.

CASL has 3,450 players under the age of 10, and their Lead Programs Director, John Brandford, says those kids aren’t practicing heading because the program doesn’t introduce the technique until a player is a little older – opting to focus on foot work, technique, and a more basic understating of the game at a younger age.

Tommy Retzlaff is a CASL Coach for a youth girls’ team. He said he backs the recommendation because a younger player may not have sufficiently developed neck muscles to counteract the force of an incoming soccer ball.

“Rarely will you see me standing on the sideline saying you’ve got to head the ball,” Retzlaff said. “We have to find ways to work around it, and I’m a strong advocate particularly on the girl side for no-heading 14 and under.”

The recommendation comes as a result of a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, which will also be rolling out a new safety campaign in the months to come.

Boy heading soccer ball
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