The Danger of Headers Returns to the Headlines

Influential journalist Stefan Fatsis has restarted the debate oh whether headers in soccer should be outlawed, at least at the youth levels.

The impetus for his column, which appeared in slate.com, were revelations a few days earlier that former MSL soccer player Patrick Grange was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he died in 2012 at age 29 after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a rare, incurable neurodegenerative disease.

“We can’t say for certain that heading the ball caused his condition in this case,” Boston University neuropathologist Ann McKee, who examined Grange’s brain, told the media. “But it is noteworthy that he was a frequent header of the ball, and he did develop this disease. I’m not sure we can take it any further than that.”

But Fatsis did.

“It shouldn’t take much to persuade an impartial observer that heading in youth soccer is pointless. Watch a recreational or even an elite travel soccer game involving preadolescents,” wrote Fatsis.soccer2013

“Heading, when it occurs, is usually a random act. Eyes shut. Head scrunched into neck. Shoulders clenched. The ball usually makes contact on the top or the rear of the skull. It isn’t directed to a specific place—to a teammate, toward the goal, out of bounds. It ricochets to points unknown, in direct opposition to a fundamental teaching tenet of the sport. Players would get better at soccer by learning to control the ball out of the air with other parts of their bodies.”

The Slate story is available here:

http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2014/02/soccer_headers_and_children_why_kids_shouldn_t_be_allowed_to_hit_the_ball.html

 

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