Heading a soccer ball is not a good idea, and now the International Football Association Board has approved a trial to ban heading in children under the age of 12, by the Football Association in England.
This follows non mandatory advice to coaches from the league in 2020, to prohibit heading in children under the age of 11 during practice sessions.
All good news, because we know that heading a soccer ball can lead to a concussion and irreversible brain damage. A concussion is a brain injury and the force applied to the head during heading can cause a concussion. You need not lose consciousness to sustain a concussion and as I like to say, “You shake it, You break it.”
It is not only the single heading episode that is dangerous, but also the cumulative impact of sub-concussive heading, which can lead to brain injury.
Heading a soccer ball has also been linked to progressive neuro-degenerative disease including CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a condition often found in boxers due to repetitive head trauma. CTE can cause a host of physical and psychiatric disorders including dizziness, cognitive impairment including depression, behavioral issues and even suicide.
Extending the ban on heading a soccer ball makes sense, but what doesn’t make sense is why a trial and not a total ban, and why the arbitrary age of 12 was chosen.
Heading a soccer ball is also unsafe for children over the age of 12 as well as adults. Fully developed brains are equally suspectable to injury caused by head trauma.
Last week, researchers at Boston University, who examined the brain of Scott Vermillion, a former college star who played four seasons in Major League Soccer and passed away in 2020 reported that his brain had extensive evidence of CTE.
According to the New York Times, “Vermillion had spent the last decade of his life withdrawing from his family as he struggled with substance abuse and progressively erratic behavior.” Neuropathologists have stated that heading a soccer ball creates risks of brain damage similar to the risk of injury to playing American football.
In our legal practice and in conversations with students and parents, we have heard frequent reports of how heading a soccer ball has led to life altering changes in players ranging from persistent headaches to extreme sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises, sleep disturbances, vestibular impairments, inability to concentrate or attend to schoolwork and depression.
I have frequently stated that football is a concussion delivery system. American football and heading a soccer ball in European football are dangerous to the brains of all children and adults. To protect children, we need to have a universal ban and prevent needless injury from happening.
The best cure for a brain injury is prevention.