The banning and limiting of heading, is just one part of what’s being dubbed “a sweeping youth soccer initiative” to help cut down on the number of concussions and other injuries seen at the youth level of the sport. In a separate press release on Monday, U.S. Soccer said it would unveil a comprehensive campaign in the coming months that is being “developed with the help of medical experts to provide coaches, players, parents and referees with information, guidance and additional educational materials to improve the management of injuries, including concussions.”
U.S. Soccer said the new player safety campaign is not related to the lawsuit filed in August 2014, despite that it led attorney Steve Berman to announce the plaintiffs would now drop its litigation.
“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 press statement. “We are pleased that we were able to play a role in improving the safety of the sport for soccer-playing children in this country.”
According to Berman’s original filing, high schoolers suffered 50,000 concussions in 2010 — more than in baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling together, the New York Times reports.
NBC Sports’s Andy Edwards postulates that perhaps by putting early limitations on heading, players could develop a different set of skills and, in particular, a more comprehensive use of their feet. He says that could improve “the quality of players coming through the system [in] the next 10, 15, and 20 years.”
Others, however, wonder if limiting an integral part of the game might prevent U.S. players from ever becoming truly competitive on the world stage.
Time will tell regarding how the limiting of headers at the early youth levels will affect the sport, but for former U.S. men’s national team member Taylor Twellman, whose career ended because of multiple concussions, the new protocols are a good thing.