Chicago (AFP) - A ban on headers for children 10 and under was among the recommendations of a new safety program unveiled Wednesday by the US Soccer Federation to combat concussions and other injuries.
Concussion safety moves include recommendations to eliminate headers for youngsters 10 and under, limiting the amount of headers in practice for players ages 11-13 to no more than 30 minutes a week with only 15-20 headers per player and an emphasis on technique to try and avoid injury.
Medical experts developed the program, Recognize to Recover, to help provide coaches, players, referees and parents information and educational material to help manage or prevent injuries.
"Recognize to Recover will lead to better awareness and understanding of player health and safety initiatives and strengthen the role parents, players, coaches and officials play in preventing, protecting and addressing injuries," US Soccer chief medical officer George Chiampas said.
Even as American football is being hit with health and safety concerns over the long-term impact of repeated blows to the head even inside protective helmets, football has been a concussion target due to repeated head contact with the ball and opponents game after game.
"US Soccer is committed to being the leader in lasting change that has a positive impact on the game," US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. "We created Recognize to Recover to elevate player health and safety and bring players, coaches, parents and officials together to help ensure safe play at all levels."
Leagues without unlimited substitutions are suggested to remove players for medical evaluations if a player suffers a significant blow to the head and that any substitution for such a concussion consideration not count against a team's substitution limit.
If a player is cleared during a game, he may return to the match but only for the original player who replaced him, who would be allowed to return as a later substitute also.
Players suspected on concussions will be provided time for evaluation by health care professionals without penalty or loss of a substitute.
"We know the vast majority of concussions occur when there is contact between players trying to head the ball," said Chiampas. "By reducing the number of those aerial challenges to head the ball, we believe we will decrease the incident of concussions."
Players removed from matches who do not return must complete a protocol before being able to return that includes 24 hours of symptom-free rest, moderate activity, heavy activity -- with a physician making final approval.
Referees must view concussion materials annually.
"While the science on head injuries is still developing, these rule changes and recommendations are based on the advice of the US Soccer medical committee. As we continue to learn more, we'll have the flexibility to adapt to the findings and make the appropriate changes."
Other safety concerns include heat-related illness and dehydration, heart health, nutrition and injury prevention.