Dangerous times ahead for game?
IN THIS world of litigation it came as no surprise to me that a lawsuit was filed against the US Soccer Federation regarding concussions.
What did surprise me, however, was the response from US Soccer this week and I wonder what ramifications this will have for the junior game in this country and world wide.
In a bid to resolve a proposed class-action lawsuit, US Soccer outlined proposals regarding heading for children in games.
If those proposals are taken up, players aged 10 and younger will not be allowed to head the ball and headers in practice will be reduced for those from 11 to 13.
The regulations will be mandatory for US Soccer youth national teams and academies, including Major League Soccer youth club teams, but the rules will be only recommendations for those associations and development programs, not under US Soccer control.
"What we're establishing is creating parameters and guidelines with regards to the amount of exposure to potential head injuries," George Chiampas, US Soccer's chief medical officer, said.
He also said the science on concussions and youth soccer was still evolving, and so would US Soccer's policies, including modifications to substitution rules meant to better serve players suspected of having sustained concussions.
While the subject of concussion is a serious one and we must find ways of keeping it under control, I find it hard to believe that children heading a football is the sole cause.
Of course, it is important to have duty of care in our game but taking away heading is surely not the answer and if it is such a problem then why just ban it for juniors and not keep that ban going to senior level.
I don't want to see any football player get injured whatever their age but to take something which is part and parcel of the game out of it seems to me to be over the top.
To me it is the equivalent of taking tackling out of rugby league or Aussie rules.
And just when do you bring that part of the game back in?
Surely it would be more difficult to coach older children how to head the ball if you have stopped them doing it for so long.
According to the original filing in the case, almost 50,000 high school soccer players sustained concussions in 2010 - more players than in baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling combined.
To me those stats mean nothing, as apart from wrestling and to a lesser extent basketball, those are non-contact sports and concussion should not play a huge part anyway, plus the ban on heading is aimed at 10s and under and not high school kids.
There would be more chance of getting concussed in football following a tackle than heading the ball, so do we ban that?
To me, it just shows a lack of understanding of the sport.
I am all for making the game safer for all concerned but just hope that this decision from US Soccer does not get picked up by FIFA and countries such as Australia go down the same path.
The beautiful game would certainly be a bit uglier if that was allowed to happen.