Student Well-Being

Former U.S. Women’s Soccer Stars Seek to Limit Youth-Soccer Headers

By Bryan Toporek — July 02, 2014 1 min read

Remember when John Anthony Brooks of the United States’ men’s national soccer team headed in the game-winning goal against Ghana in both teams’ opening game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup? If a group of former U.S. women’s soccer stars have their way, youth-soccer players won’t have a chance to emulate his heroics until they reach high school.

Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone, and Joy Fawcett teamed with the Sports Legacy Institute and the Institute of Sports Law and Ethics to announce the new initiative, called Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer, on June 25. They’re calling for all middle school soccer teams and under-14 youth-soccer leagues to ban heading in an attempt to reduce the risk of concussions.

“As a professional and now a parent and coach, I believe that the benefits of developing heading skills as children are not worth the thousands of additional concussions that youth-soccer players will suffer,” said Chastain, who hammered home the game-winning penalty shot in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, in a statement. “As a parent, I won’t allow my children to head the ball before high school, and as a coach I would prefer my players had focused solely on foot skills as they develop their love of the game. I believe this change will create better and safer soccer.”

According to a study presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, athletes who head soccer balls were found to have brain abnormalities similar to those found in patients with traumatic brain injuries. However, in a March 2012 perspective piece published in the

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.