The United States Soccer Federation tweaks rules and regulations on soccer among younger players. In a statement released on Nov. 9, the USSF endorsed a ban on headers for players below 10 years old and certain limitations for players who are 11 to 13 years old.

The directive applies for all groups who are part of the U.S. Soccer's Youth National Teams and Development Academy programs. However, for those not under the organization's governance, these may be dubbed as recommendations to prevent injuries in the future.

"Some of the youth members joining in the initiative do not have direct authority at the local level to require the adaption of the rules," U.S. Soccer said in a statement. "Although they are only recommendations, they are based on the advice of the U.S. Soccer medical committee, and therefore U.S. Soccer strongly urges that they be followed."

Dubbed as the most difficult skill to practice, "heading" refers to using the head to hit the ball. The skill has been the subject of various controversies due to lawsuits filed for the increasing number of injuries among younger players - specifically concussions.

A group of parents and players filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in California in 2014 in an appeal for the organization to change game rules to prevent injuries. Three organizations who failed to address the issue were charged with negligence, including FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization.

On top of the ban on heading, coaches are not allowed to decide whether an athlete can still resume playing after a head injury. Subsequently, decisions will be left to a licensed health professional, who should be present at all development academy matches.

Also, player replacements for those who had suspected concussions will not count as a team's total for allowed substitutions. These changes are meant to better serve players who previously acquired head injuries. According to the U.S. Soccer, the new policy specifications will be announced in the next 30 days.

The USSF also developed a program to raise concussion awareness among coaches, referees, players and their parents. This will further help in the implementation of the new policy and the early detection of a suspected concussion to prevent serious injuries.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established HEADS UP Concussion in Youth Sports Initiative to raise awareness regarding head injuries and concussions but did not limit these injuries to soccer.

Concussion or traumatic brain injury can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt in the head and can cause serious injuries to the brain. Common signs and symptoms include inability to recall events prior and during the injury, appearing stunned, moving clumsily, experiencing pressure in the head, vomiting, blurred vision and in severe cases, inability to wake up and eventually, comatose. 

Photo: Steven Depolo | Flickr 

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