Soccer is going soft…

Is the next generation of soccer players a bunch of “softies”? Soccer was a major part of my childhood and is still a part of my life today. My days in competitive sports were much more brutal compared to today’s standards. I only got a trophy when my team actually won. I was not congratulated for losing, I was encouraged to get better. I was aware of the possibility of injury and suffered many injuries. Even experienced a few shots to the head and face from a soccer ball. However, it was part of the game, and a risk I was willing to take.

On Monday, the United States Soccer Federation unveiled a series of safety initiatives aimed at addressing head injuries in soccer. The initiatives include a policy that sets strict limits on youth players heading the ball. In fact, it prohibits heading the ball for players 10 and under. The new regulations were a result of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed against U.S. Soccer.  According to the complaint, 46,200 U.S. high school soccer players suffered concussions in 2010, more than from baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling combined. At least 30 percent of soccer concussions come from heading or attempting to head balls. This claim seems futile. In any sport there is an inherent risk of injury, and if you decide to play, you assume the risk. However, the looming threat of major law suits seems to have rattled the United States Soccer Federation into setting these new guidelines.

As an avid soccer player and lover of the game, these latest developments are incredibly disappointing. No one wants to see an injury, and the concerns are valid, but to jump to removing a key piece of the game because of litigation seems irrational. Although the new guidelines may not affect me personally, a change to such a crucial part of the game only sets back and further delays the progress of the sport in the US. In fact the US will have a whole new generation that does not know how to properly head the ball and perhaps even suffer more injury because of it.  It will create a generation of players who are fearful of the ball. Is that what we really want? Do we really want a generation of “softies”?

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