Professor’s Post Looks at ‘the Ethics of Headers’

A blog post on the Santa Clara University Law Website, written by philosophy professor Jack Bowen, examined the “ethics of headers” on the soccer field.

Bowen’s post notes that “children depend on us for some paternalistic rationality” and looks at “whether youth soccer players should be allowed to head the ball.”

The author points to the fact that “two heavy hitters have taken on this project.  First, providing the science behind the issue, the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI)—this is the group that has brought the dangers of football concussions to the forefront of sporting consciousness.  And the second, the Institute of Sports Law and Ethics (ISLE), led by board member Brandi Chastain, who may be most responsible for popularizing women’s soccer in the United States.”

Bowen notes that “30 percent of concussions in soccer result from players attempting to head the ball, either by contact with the ball or in collisions with the heads of other players also attempting to head the ball.”

He goes on to dismiss the notion that a “padded helmet or headband” would help.  “(T)he headband is more like placing padding on the outside of a box containing delicate wine glasses and then tossing the box against the wall: the box may remain unscathed but the glassware—what we really care about—ends up destroyed.  When a skull collides with another object, be it a soccer ball punted from the goalie or another skull, much of the trauma results from the brain’s momentum sending it crashing into the interior of the skull.”

Bowen concludes that adults “have a moral duty to prevent harm to children when easily feasible. … (T)he initiative proposed by SLI and ISLE is not just in the best interests of children, but one of moral necessity.  To fail to do this would be to act immorally.”

To see the fully post, visit:

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