Several national soccer organizations on Monday announced sweeping changes aimed at reducing player concussions among youth players.
According to a joint statement issued by the organizations, U.S. Soccer will enact a comprehensive Player Safety Campaign in the coming months in an effort to reduce the number of concussions among youth players who continuously head the ball. It will also address other health and safety initiatives, such as heat-related illnesses and injury prevention.
Two highlights of the Player Safety Campaign are the elimination of heading for children younger than 11, and limitations placed on heading the ball in practice for players aged 11 to 13.
The new initiative follows a lawsuit filed against U.S. Soccer and several other national organizations. The plaintiffs in the case, represented by attorney Steve Berman, never sought financial damages. And in the joint statement, Berman said that in light of the upcoming campaign, his clients would not pursue further legal action.
Citing the original lawsuit, the New York Times reported that in 2010, nearly 50,000 high school soccer players were diagnosed with concussions. That figure was more than the combined concussions sustained by high school baseball, basketball, softball, and football players.
U.S. Soccer CEO and Secretary General Dan Flynn said in a statement that the organization worked with its medical science committee, "which includes experts in the field of concussion diagnosis and management," as well as technical advisors and youth members to develop "a true consensus-based program."
Increased awareness and education of concussions among players, parents, and coaches, as well as revised substitution protocols for players with head injuries, will also be addressed in the campaign.
Details of how the organization plans to implement the new rules will be announced in the next 30 days, according to U.S. Soccer. As noted by NBC Sports, youth soccer clubs are scattered throughout metropolitan, suburban, and rural areas of the U.S., which could pose a challenge in the implementation of the new rules.