Concussion fears change header rules in youth soccer

Children 10 and under no longer to be taught headers in soccer


SAN ANTONIO – At Dr. Mike Magoon's emergency clinic in Alamo Heights, they are ready to treat almost any injury, including the dreaded sports-related concussion.

He said research on the subject points to why the United States Soccer Federation has banned heading in the game for children 10 and under.

"Soccer players sustain more mild head injury than any other sport, including football," Magoon said.

The statistics may surprise some because it’s not necessarily the force of the impact, but the number of times a child’s head hits the ball.

Soccer coaches like Jose Lizardo said the new rules may have an impact for some kids but not most.

“At around 13, 14 is when you are actually trying to add that (headers) for the kids. Before that, honestly, they are afraid of the ball," he said.

Lizardo works at the Soccer Factory on Starcrest Drive, outfitting would-be soccer stars with shoes and protective gear. A “Halo” headband is a big seller, as are the specially padded lightweight helmets that many parents choose for their kids.

But players who have never used protective gear say it’s unnecessary if you learn the proper heading technique. Danny Castillo has been playing since he was 5 years old.

"It's going to hurt for two seconds but then you get over it," he said.

Magoon said the United States Soccer Federation may want go to further with its rules, because he said there’s no evidence that delaying headers will prevent traumatic brain injury. He said the brain continues growing through age 20.

"I suspect that soccer will either change as a sport, or the athletes who play soccer will just have to adjust," Magoon said.