And Then, Soccer

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Andrew Larson

Andrew P Larson is everything wrong with libertarians on the internet. He is on Twitter at @applarson.

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  1. There was an episode on The Practice about this, a long time ago. One of the spinoff firms took a case where they were suing the local little league soccer team. If I recall, they settled pretty quickly.Report

  2. Astle was a center forward in the classic English mold, which is to say a player expected to get in front of the goal and knock in crosses with his forehead.

    The Church of England is weird.Report

  3. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    While concussions and CTE in Association Football clearly are a thing, I have never seen one of these articles that include numbers. We are told what there is a risk of, but not how high that risk is. Anecdotes are good for stating the issue, but not for evaluating potential policy changes.Report

  4. Avatar Timothy Jaxon says:

    A view from inside the issue…

    I am the league manager for a non-profit youth soccer organization, 1100+ kids. The more serious teams play year round, but we are mostly focused on the recreational side…and we take concussions very seriously.

    Our coaches and assistants have to go through a three-step process to be on the field with our players, this includes a national background check, becoming ‘Safe-Sport’ trained (covering sexual abuse, hazing, bullying, emotional misconduct, physical misconduct, harassment (non-sexual) as well as reporting obligations) and finally an online course covering injuries and most importantly concussion protocol. The online concussion class is 90 minutes, with testing afterwards to try and insure the subject matter stays with our coaches. In our pre-season meetings and emails we emphasize that player safety is the most important aspect of youth soccer to all of our coaches and parents. Our referees are also trained to look for concussion symptoms and to err on the side of caution whenever there is the potential for a head injury.

    At the younger ages (U9 and below) the goalies can’t punt the ball – they can only kick on the ground or roll it out (google build-out lines for more info). Heading the ball isn’t allowed until our 13/14 year-old age group and even then we encourage our coaches to not practice doing so at all.

    All of these protocols come down from US Soccer – I sincerely hope that all of the other youth soccer organizations are following these rules. Obviously MLS and other professional leagues should lead on this issue, but money and egos invariably get in the way.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Timothy Jaxon says:

      I was going to mention that US Soccer banned heading for young players a few years ago. I suppose US Soccer doesn’t have an enforcement arm, and maybe states should codify these types of rules.Report

      • Avatar Andrew Larson in reply to PD Shaw says:

        Soccer in general has a problem with fragmentation of authority, and the USSF/NFHS split within the US is a particularly large problem for coordinating action at the youth level. The trend of bans at very young ages is genuinely encouraging, though in my experience they tend to phase out around the age when heading became a meaningful part of the game for my unrestricted generation anyway (I played at low levels, but I think the general trend of headers being almost unheard of under 10 but routine by high school is more or less representative, for reasons that are mostly about how players develop in their ability to play the ball with their feet).

        One key thing I would highlight from Timothy Jaxon’s comment, though, is discouraging heading in practice. The RSNA study I linked above includes players who had 5400 recorded headers in a calendar year; that is not a number reached without extensive heading in practice. Between the rarity of heading in game (a particularly active player might reach the double digits) and the much greater amount of time spent practicing than playing at all but the lowest levels, simply changing practice techniques could drastically change the game’s health impact.

        Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Andrew Larson says:

          5400 recorded headers in a calendar year

          That seems pretty incredible. I’m just a parent observer, with a son that played on two traveling teams last year at U14, and in somewhere around 50 games, I doubt I saw a total of 1,000 headers. Certainly could be more in practice, but I really don’t think heading was an area of concentration (as opposed to ball movement, in game decisionmaking, footwork). Just to say, I think those number are outliers from my perspective.

          Also, agree that heading seemed rare at young ages. Preventing punts seems like it would go a long way to reducing the number of times that is an option. And just from watching my first three high school games, keepers seem more likely to roll it out anyway. (Though I suppose that is due to the punt option spreading the field)Report

  5. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    It seems so odd to me that I could ride a bike to a soccer game wearing my helmet, take the helmet off to play soccer, and then put it back on again to ride home, and everyone would think that normal. But if I rode to the game bareheaded, put my helmet on to play soccer, and then took it off again to ride home, then I’d be thought weird.

    That, even though soccer sees about 20-30 concussions per 100,000 exposures (i.e. games and practices) (19 per 100,000 for boys, 33 per 100,000 for girls), while transportation cycling without a helmet has about 0.2 head injuries (a subset of which involve concussions) per 100,000 hours – literally a hundred times as safe with respect to head injuries.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

      I spend about 5 hours a week on my bike, mostly without a helmet. To have about the same head injury risk from soccer and cycling, I’d only have to average 2.5 games or practices a year…Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I don’t wear my bike helmet because of the risk of concussion. I wear it because the (admittedly small) risk of something much worse happening. Over the years I’ve had two colleagues who kept their bicycle helmet with some part completely crushed hanging in their office so when people asked, they could tell their story and finish, “And that’s why you wear your helmet!” The opinions in both cases by people qualified to have one were that w/o the helmet it would have been a fatal head injury.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Depending on the study you believe, the risk of death by head injury from walking is somewhere between near-identical and double that of cycling. Since I am happy to walk without looking for ways to mitigate risk, I’m not going to worry much about cycling either.

          That’s “transportation cycling” not “bicycle sports”. Mountain biking or road racing are different beasts from riding on smooth pavement at a comfortable pace to destinations around town…Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to dragonfrog says:

            One of the two was “tame” mountain trail — eight feet wide, paved with finely crushed stone, suitable for people in a powered wheelchair with fat tires. He had no idea why he fell because he lost the 30 minutes of short-term memory leading up to the event. Helmet bounced off a basketball-sized rock buried next to the side of the trail.

            The other was a transportation case — car drifted into the bike lane, didn’t touch him but he flinched so violently as it passed that he fell. Helmet bounced off the square corner of the curb. Driver didn’t stop.

            Most of where I ride these days I could do w/o the helmet. If I’m sharing the pavement with cars, though, I wear the helmet.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    I do sport fencing. When I sat on the board of our state division of USA Fencing, one of the things we struggled with was to get coaches to pay attention to possible concussion symptoms. They’re rare in the sport, but do occur. Most commonly by falling backwards and hitting your head on a hardwood or concrete floor. When I have had to lead footwork exercises for beginners, I always have them do two or three retreats in a row and then look at how their feet wind up. Many are in a position where on the next retreat they’re going to trip on their own foot. Occasionally I can even convince some of them that there’s a reason that footwork drill is more than just going through the motions sloppily — it’s building muscle memory so you do it right, every time, w/o thinking about it.Report

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