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US bans heading of soccer balls

11 November 2015, 13:11

Los Angeles - Football players under the age of 10 will be banned from heading as part of a series of safety measures aimed at tackling head injuries in the sport, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) has announced, ending the threat of a proposed class-action lawsuit.

The revised safety measures will also limit the amount of headers in practice for players aged between 11 and 13, a statement on the US Soccer website confirmed.

The new rules will be followed strictly by USSF Soccer youth national teams and the youth sections of Major League Soccer teams but are only recommendations for teams and associations outside US Soccer control.

The guidelines were drawn up to resolve a legal case launched in federal court in California by a group of parents and players alleging not enough was being done to treat and monitor head injuries.

No damages were sought in the suit, only amendments to rules governing the sport in the United States.

As part of the resolution, the USSF has developed an extensive program to improve concussion awareness and education amongst youth coaches, referees, parents and players, a statement said.

Rules governing the maximum number of substitutions would also be tweaked to ensure they did not act as an impediment to the evaluation of players who have suffered a concussion during matches.

"In constructing the concussion component, US Soccer sought input from its medical science committee which includes experts in the field of concussion diagnosis and management, as well as from its technical advisors, and worked with its youth members to develop a true consensus-based program," US Soccer chief executive Dan Flynn said in a statement.

Steve Berman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the new safety measures met the objectives of the case, which would now be dropped.

"We are pleased that we were able to play a role in improving the safety of the sport for soccer-playing children in this country," he said.

A recent study by scientists in Denver looked at concussions in US high school soccer between 2005 and 2014.

The study reported that while rules outlawing heading would likely reduce the number of concussions, the main causes of head injuries involved athlete-to-athlete contact.

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