No Headers for Age 11 and Under

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NorCal Premier Soccer, the league in which Black Oaks Youth Soccer competes, has implemented a no-heading rule for players age 11 and under, following guidelines set forth by US Soccer and US Club Soccer. The move is intended to reduce concussions.  A study estimated 50,000 high school soccer players suffered concussions in 2010.

According to a New York Times article, the announcement resolved a legal case that began in August 2014, when a group of parents and players filed a class-action lawsuit in United States District Court in California charging FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization with negligence in treating and monitoring head injuries. The suit targeted the Laws of the Game, which govern the sport internationally, as well as several American organizations.

The suit sought no financial damages, only rules changes, as FIFA joined other sports governing bodies like the N.F.L., the N.H.L. and the N.C.A.A. in facing a lawsuit over head injuries.

A judge ruled in the summer that the case against FIFA had no standing, but that an amended complaint could be filed against U.S. Soccer. The announcement of Monday’s initiatives will serve as a resolution in the case, and Steve Berman, the lawyer who brought the case, agreed not to appeal the dismissal.

“With the development of the youth concussion initiative by U.S. Soccer and its youth members, we feel we have accomplished our primary goal and, therefore, do not see any need to continue the pursuit of the litigation,” Berman said in a statement.

According to the original filing in the case, nearly 50,000 high school soccer players sustained concussions in 2010 — more players than in baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling combined.

According to NorCal, the issue of head injury prevention and protocol in youth soccer has been in the headlines around the country and many of you are aware of the lawsuit that has been in process over the last year.  While NorCal Premier has recognized for some time that there needs to be action on the issue of head injuries in soccer, we have been waiting for clear direction from US Soccer and US Club Soccer before making changes to our rules, competitions, and requirements.  Over the last few weeks, NorCal has learned further details from US Soccer and US Club Soccer and is ready to move forward with our guidelines for the spring season.

In December of 2015, US Soccer released information about their Recognize to Recover Campaign.  In that initial information, US Soccer’s Concussion Initiative Guidelines outlined recommendations for soccer organizations as well as describing what the protocols for the US Soccer Developmental Academy would be with regards to head injuries.   NorCal Premier will be following US Soccer’s lead with regards to our Head Injury Prevention and Treatment Guidelines.  In cases where we can, we will be following the same rules that are in place for the US Developmental Academy, and in all other cases we will be strongly encouraging clubs to take an active lead in the safety of their players.

For our 2016 Spring events, NorCal will be implementing:

  • a no heading policy for all U11 and younger age groups
  • a “no re-entry” policy for players who are removed from a game due to a suspected head injury
  • a change to the NPL substitution rules to allow for the evaluation of head injuries

Below is a press release with links to more information:

Implementation guidelines for U.S. Soccer’s Player Safety Campaign
Concussion initiatives & heading for youth players

CHARLESTON, S.C. (March 14, 2016) – US Club Soccer is clarifying the following implementation guidelines for U.S. Soccer’s Recognize to Recover Player Safety Campaign, specifically as it relates to concussion initiatives and heading for youth players:

  • The Federation is recommending, and US Club Soccer is requiring immediately, new rules as it relates to heading, as follows:
    • Players in U-11 programs and younger shall not engage in heading, either in practices or in games.
    • Limited heading in practice for players in U-12 and U-13 programs. More specifically, these players shall be limited to a maximum of 30 minutes of heading training per week, with no more than 15-20 headers per player, per week.
    • Clubs should be aware of circumstances in which individual consideration is needed. For example:
      • A 10 year old playing at U-12 or older should not head the ball at all.
      • An 11 or 12 year old playing at U-14 or older should abide by the heading restrictions in practice.
    • Referees should enforce these restrictions by age group according to the specified rules. Referees will not be assessing the age of individual players on the field; they will enforce the rules for the age group.
  • Leagues and organizations are free to set their own standards, as long as the minimum requirements outlined above are met.
  • In adherence to these new requirements, referees have been instructed by U.S. Soccer of the following rule addition: When a player deliberately heads the ball in a game, an indirect free kick (IFK) should be awarded to the opposing team from the spot of the offense. If the deliberate header occurs within the goal area, the indirect free kick should be taken on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.
  • Modified substitution rules also took effect Jan. 1, 2016, as follows: Any player suspected of suffering a head injury may be substituted for evaluation without the substitution counting against the teams total number of allowed substitutions during the game.
  • US Club Soccer strongly recommends that all coaches, staff members, parents and players watch U.S. Soccer’s concussions in soccer overview video.

RESOURCES:
As previously communicated, other player safety guidelines and mandates have been implemented by U.S. Soccer, such as guidelines regarding the number of healthcare professionals at major tournaments. For more details, please review the resources linked below.

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About Alex Campbell
“Alex” is a creative writer, editor, blogger, and digital marketing professional seeking freelance opportunities in marketing, communications, social media, public relations, investor relations, government relations, sales and service. Offers over 20 years experience elevating brands, sharing stories and driving sales for interesting, innovative and disruptive products, services and new technologies.

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