Because of concerns about concussions, children younger than 12 in the United Kingdom (UK) will no longer be allowed to head the ball during soccer (football) practices.
On Monday, soccer leaders in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland announced that children will be banned from heading the ball in practice until the age of 12. The new plans call for the skill to be introduced slowly between the ages of 12 and 16.
The move follows a similar rule in the US, which bans heading for those 10 and younger, and discourages it for kids who are 11 or 12.
The goal of the new plan is to try to cut back on the number of concussions that happen to children while they are young and their brains are still developing.
A concussion is a brain injury that can happen after someone is hit on the head. It’s like a bruise on the brain. When the concussion happens, the person could pass out, but may not. Not everyone who has a concussion knows that they’ve gotten one.
In the last several years, people have become more and more aware of the dangers of concussions – especially repeated concussions.
Repeated concussions can cause permanent brain injuries which can lead to serious health and mental problems later in life. These conditions and related diseases are very common in both professional soccer players and professional players of American football.
The new rules do not ban heading the ball during a game. Experts say that that doesn’t happen very often at lower levels of soccer. But working on heading as a skill over and over again in practices could put young players at risk.
Some people suggest that banning heading could actually improve children’s soccer playing abilities by making them focus harder on other skills.
Though the rule banning heading may make soccer safer for the UK’s children, it won’t solve the problem completely. Most of the concussions in soccer happen when two players collide.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) in the US offers several helpful information packets on concussions for young people as well as parents and coaches.