Recognize to Recover is aimed at promoting safe play and reducing injuries in soccer players of all ages. The first-of-its-kind, the program was developed with the help of medical experts to provide coaches, players, parents and referees with information, guidance and additional educational materials to improve the prevention and management of injuries. A main component of Recognize To Recover is focused on head injuries, including concussions. U.S. Soccer has taken a lead in education, research and proposing rule changes to improve player safety for several years.
Under U.S. Soccer Federation guidelines adopted in Maryland last year, children under 11 are banned from heading — a dynamic way to score or advance the ball — and those who are 11 and 12 must limit heading in practice. The ban on heading has not gone unchallenged:
When Camryn Gerben was 12, she saw a corner kick coming her way and used her head to deftly bang the ball into the net. But she paid a steep price for the goal: her first soccer concussion.
“The power was just too much for her neck,” said Dan Gerben, her dad.
Five years later, the 17-year-old’s experiences — she has suffered two more concussions playing her favorite sport — helped convince Camryn and her father to embrace controversial new restrictions on heading in youth soccer.
From NPR, a report noting Heading a soccer ball is both a fundamental skill and a dynamic way to score a goal, but research says it could be causing concussions along with player collisions.
Players who headed a lot of balls, an average of 125 over two weeks, were three times more vulnerable to concussion than those who headed less than four in that time period, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. These header-happy players reported having concussion symptoms like headache, confusion and even unconsciousness.
Female athletes, in particular soccer players, suffer concussions at a “significantly higher” rate than their male counterparts, according to a study released in March by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
“In three years, we have had one soccer related concussion,” Overbey says. “For a team who played 29 games last year, earned third place in state in 3A, the big schools, to have one concussion in three years, I consider that a huge success.”
It’s also worth noting he saw 10 concussions among his players in the prior seven years without the headbands.