(SANTA CLARA) – United States soccer legends Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy, decorated women’s national team coach Tony DiCicco, Santa Clara University women’s soccer head coach Jerry Smith, the Women’s Sports Foundation, the LA84 Foundation and a dozen concussion researchers and clinicians headline a list of the latest soccer, medical, and youth sports experts to announce their support of the Safer Soccer campaign.
Launched in 2014 by the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) and the Santa Clara University Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE), the goal of the campaign is to educate parents, coaches, and the soccer community that delaying heading until age 14 or high school would eliminate the No. 1 cause of concussions in middle school soccer and is in the best interest of youth soccer players.
The new supporters join women’s soccer legends Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone and Joy Fawcett, along with concussion expert and SLI co-founder Dr. Robert Cantu. “The act of attempting to head a soccer ball causes nearly one out of three concussions in middle school,” said Dr. Cantu. “This rule change would prevent more than 30,000 concussions a year in adolescents at a critical time in their brain development.”
“Safer Soccer is part of the legacy I want to leave for the game,” said Chastain, whose penalty kick clinched the 1999 World Cup championship and who is now a coach and mother of a soccer player. “I do not want my players, or my own children, heading the ball before 14, both for their brain health and also so that we can focus our time on foot skills, which are far more important for their soccer development. For players under 14, no headers are a no brainer.”
Current guidelines from US Soccer recommend introducing headers at age 10, although many coaches start earlier. Scientific research on concussions has grown rapidly in recent years and helped lead to rules changes in sports like hockey, football and baseball.
“Given the scientific evidence, this has become more than just an ethical question,” said Ron Katz of the Santa Clara Institute of Sports Law and Ethics. “In my opinion, it implicates the laws in effect to protect young children who are in no position to protect themselves.”
The campaign website, SaferSoccer.org, links to a White Paper where supporting research can be found. Safer Soccer supporters are participating in a social media campaign with the hashtag #NoHeaderNoBrainer, and are posting pictures and videos with their soccer jerseys reversed backwards, to raise awareness that the guidelines for headers should be reversed.
“There is no reason to risk the health of young children by forcing them to the head the ball at an early age,” said LA84 Foundation President Anita L. DeFrantz. “Soccer is a great sport and we encourage soccer leaders to find ways to introduce heading skills at a later age than is commonly done now. The delay will not hinder kids’ ability to learn the skill.”
“We are proud to support the Safer Soccer campaign and do our part to make the world’s most popular sport safer for the kids who play it,” said Deborah Slaner Larkin, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “The concussion rates in youth soccer, especially for girls, are far too high, and these are preventable injuries.”
About the LA84 Foundation:
The LA84 Foundation was established to manage Southern California’s share of the surplus from the successful 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The Foundation received an endowment of $93 million. Since it began operations in 1985, it has invested more than $225 million back into the communities that supported the Games, supporting more than 3 million youth in the eight Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura. Its headquarters is the historic Britt House near downtown Los Angeles where it houses the world’s premier sports library and meeting facilities. The Foundation provides grants to youth sports organizations, manages programs, including a coaching education program, and convenes numerous forums for the exploration of the most pressing issues in sport. For more information, please visit la84.org.