Source: The New York Times
The United States Soccer Federation unveiled a series of safety initiatives aimed at addressing head injuries.
In August 2014, a group of parents and players filed a class-action lawsuit charging FIFA (the international soccer association), 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 and sought no financial damages.
The new guidelines will prohibit players age 10 and younger from heading the ball and will reduce headers in practice for those from age 11 to 13.
Among the other changes will be modifications to substitution rules that are meant to better serve players suspected of having sustained concussions.
Also, specifics of a new policy proposals on substitutions will be announced in the next 30 days, according to U.S. Soccer.
Currently, international rules allow for only three substitutions per game at the senior level, with no arrangement in place for a temporary substitution so a player with a head injury can be examined properly.
Increasing awareness of head injuries, especially after several high-profile cases in Europe and during the 2014 World Cup, have led some to press for rules changes to allow for concussion treatment, but so far there has been little interest in soccer leadership to alter the rules of the game.
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.
U.S. Soccer’s initiative calls for more education for players, parents, coaches and referees, and for more uniform practices for handling youth concussions, and its officials said they hoped those efforts could lead to broader acceptance of the rules about headers by children and the treatment of head injuries.
The regulations will be mandatory for U.S. Soccer youth national teams and academies, including Major League Soccer youth club teams, but be only recommendations for other soccer associations and development programs that are not under U.S. Soccer control.