Health Heroes: Soccer and Child Safety

Health Heroes: Soccer and Child Safety

It’s World Cup season and everyone’s having fun (minus a few scrapes, bruises and one bite)! The excitement is contagious and kids and adults alike are running home to grab their own soccer balls and bouncing into the nearest park.  


What’s not to love?  Running, jumping, kicking… hitting your head?! What? Yes, in a hands-free sport, “headers” are allowed. However new research (and honestly some older research too) is showing this type of soccer play is dangerous, especially to kids.  


While Abby Wambach made it look cool, it turns out scoring a goal with hard force to the skull can hurt the brain. This is not so cool – particularly for those below the age of 14, when the brain is still developing.  


A new initiative called Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer has been formed in conjunction with the Sports Legacy Institute and the Santa Clara Institute of Sports Law and Ethics and a number of world renowned soccer players including Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone and Joy Fawcett.  


Parlow Cone was forced to retire from soccer due to head injuries and fatigue – all resulting from a series of concussions across time from headers. She said that when she was a child practicing headers, she thought that “seeing stars” was normal for everyone. Well, it may be a common experience to see stars when subjected to head trauma, but head trauma shouldn’t be so common. Heading is the leading cause of serious injuries in the sport.  


So during this time of soccer-mania when kids are developing healthy heroes, it’s a good time to note what traits to emulate and what’s age-appropriate for the sport. In this case, no headers for those young developing brains!  


For more on the topic, the Times has a great article, here.





Image credit: soccer head case by woodleywonderworks via Flickr Copyright Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Originally published 6/27/14 on