Heading under scrutiny in youth football

Since the rise in research over brain injuries and CTE in American football, many have looked at heading in soccer (world football) as a major issue.

As more research has been conducted and new evidence found, football insiders have called for bans on children from heading the ball in England. A lawsuit in the United States forced the banning of heading for players 10 and under. Kids between the ages of 11 and 13 receive limited header training.

The anti-header movement seems to have picked up pace recently. Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire from football due to head injuries, has come out calling for a ban in England just like the one in the US.

If heading was banned at a certain age in England then it would theoretically force younger ages to play the ball on the ground more. However, the number of headers seen in many youth games are low and coaches who teach young players heading in training in the first place may not know exactly know what they are doing.

There is an argument that the ban in the US against headers and the lawsuit that influenced it was a knee-jerk reaction. The original lawsuit named a number of footballing bodies were at fault for head injuries in youth players. FIFA was even included in the lawsuit.

More studies are in the pipeline over heading and brain injuries. However, research must take into account other aspects of a child’s life along with other sports and activities.

In an interesting move, the US state of Massachusetts is looking to ban youth American football until the age of 13 to 14. Like the banning of heading, the move would prevent youngsters from suffering head injuries in the full-contact sport of American football. The big difference between the sports is the constant battering ram contact that occurs in American football at all levels.

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