In 2014 the United States Youth Soccer Association reported over 3 million registered participants, again making soccer America’s most popular youth sport.
But starting Tuesday, most of those 3 million kids will be playing a fundamentally different game than their counterparts in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In a press release earlier this week, the United States Soccer Federation announced a ban on headers for children ages 10 and under and a limit on the same practice for children ages 11 through 13.
From the U.S. Soccer statement:
The United States Soccer Federation and the other youth member defendants, with input from counsel for the plaintiffs, have developed a sweeping youth soccer initiative designed to (a) improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents and players; (b) implement more uniform concussion management and return-to-play protocols for youth players suspected of having suffered a concussion; (c) modify the substitution rules to insure such rules do not serve as an impediment to the evaluation of players who may have suffered a concussion during games; and (d) eliminate heading for children 10 and under and limit heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13.
The dramatic changes come as a result of a class-action lawsuit over FIFA’s handling of concussions. The suit, brought by a group of soccer parents and players and filed last year in California’s U.S. District Court, did not seek financial damages — rather changes to the sport’s rules.
The United States Soccer Federation (U.S. Soccer) and American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) were also named in the lawsuit.
According to U.S. Soccer, the complete details of the new safety initiative along with a more comprehensive player safety campaign will be announced within the next month.