Posts Tagged ‘Soccer’

Researchers studying soccer concussions and links to CTE

Science focusing on how many hits, not just how hard

We frequently write about concussion prevention, usually in connection to football. But concussions are a concern in soccer, too, and scientists are turning their attention to the sport.

Most people don’t think of soccer as a contact sport. But repeated player-on-player impacts and headers can result in concussions. Soccer is played by millions of kids at all age levels, so concussion education and research related to prevention is critical.

A good starting point is the U.S. Soccer Federation’s policy that strictly limits headers in youth soccer. Set in 2015, it prohibits players under age 10 from heading the ball and reduces headers during practice for players aged 11 to 13.

Concussions and CTE

Talk of concussions always leads to talk of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. It can only be diagnosed by conducting an autopsy. To date, there is no definitive proof that CTE is caused by concussions.

However, research suggests that repeated, less violent sub-concussive hits football and soccer players take may trigger CTE.  Current research being conducted by Michael Lipton, a neuroscientist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is seeking to identify what triggers CTE. His research seeks an answer to the question of how much impact it takes for brain function to be affected.

Measuring the impact scientifically

Lipton hopes to find the answer by tracking about 400 recreational soccer players for Concussions in youth sportsseveral years. The study participants get a brain scan and blood work done. To test cognitive abilities, they participate in brain games on a tablet. Changes in brain function are mapped through diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging.

Lipton found in an earlier study of about 37 players that heading the ball is associated with cognitive setbacks and changes to the brain structure. This was the case even when no concussion was diagnosed. Observation of the players revealed that they head the ball an average of six to 12 times each game. These balls are traveling missile-like at speeds up to 50 mph. Players headed balls up to 30 times during practice drills. The study suggests that memory problems set in at about 1,800 headers.

Looking ahead

Conducting such a study on a larger group of players could help researchers find the point at which players should cease playing or back off heading the ball.

Other medical researchers hope to eventually isolate a biomarker that signals the onset CTE. That information would enable players to determine if and when it’s time to hang up their cleats.

In my opinion

I’m a bit confused about Lipton’s research methods. I seriously doubt he will find much heading of the ball in his new study of recreational soccer players. In his earlier study, the number of headers cited per practice seem too high for even the average club-level team. In watching my daughters’ club and high school practices over the past 10 years, I’ve never seen anything close to 30 repetitive header practices with high speed balls. The only heading-specific drills are low speed. The entire team may practice high-speed headers off of corner kicks, but the hits are spread out among the entire team.

You can read further articles about concussions on our blog.


Source: ERIC NIILER, “Brain Trauma Scientists Turn Their Attention to Soccer.” wired.com. 27 July 2017

Verbal Abuse, Violence Driving Umpires/Referees Out of Sports

Officials cite verbal abuse and threats as reason for decline

The Washington Post recently ran a story on the shortage of referees in youth sports. It spotlighted several former game officials recounting their many negative experiences. These included instances of verbal abuse by players, coaches and parents, feeling threatened physically, and lack of support from league and school administrators.

One D.C.-area baseball official assigning group is reporting it’s lowest number of umpires in over 25 years. Only 50% of their first-year umpires return to the job. About 20% of those officiating for five to seven years come back. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, just two out of every 10 officials across all sports return for a third year.

Youth soccer, in particular, suffers from a decline in referees, even as player participation continues to rise year after year. Incidences of red cards remains static. But the number of red cards for filthy and abusive language, often directed at officials, has doubled in the past year.

There’s no reason to expect this trend to change any time in the foreseeable future. The increasing referee shortage means even more game cancellations in the future than are already being experienced.

The responsibility of administrators

High school assistant football coach Scott Hartman told of being verbally attacked by players and their coach following a call he made. After the game, parents and fans hurled insults at the other officials and him. The school’s director of student activities escorted them to their cars, but chastised the referees for missing several possible fouls by the opposing team.

You’re the exact reason that we’re losing referees, and you’re the reason that parents and coaches are out of control,” Hartman told him.

Hartman points out that there are schools that make maintaining decorum a priority.

But many administrators are obviously more concerned about wins and losses, not holding coaches accountable for poor behavior.

Virginia’s Commonwealth Soccer Officials Association (CSOA) conducted inspections at Northern Virginia high schools. Loud vocal disapproval was observed in 85% of the 42 matches observed. Of those, profanity by spectators was involved in 20%.
Not surprisingly, female officials suffer all this and more. Many say they encounter sexism at nearly every event, are spat upon and called whores. “I’ve been called that and worse in at least a dozen languages” said long-time soccer official Thea Bruhn.

A tolerant environment

Officiating organizations are accused of encouraging referees to tolerate behavior by fans, players and parents. Other say coaches even dictate to officiating organizations which referees will work certain games.

Personal and advertising injuryOther factors include travel leagues that are full of aggressive parents making demands as they push for college scholarships. And young athletes observe admired professional players berating referees and exhibiting poor sportsmanship.

To participate in games, umpires and referees frequently have to leave their day jobs early and travel good distances. They often return home lateat night. Pay for youth rec through varsity-level leagues ranges from $25 to $65 per game. It’s no wonder many are deciding they’re no longer willing to sacrifice their time and energy when they’re shown so little regard.

We encourage officials to read Referee & Umpire Insurance. For more information or quote on Referee & Umpire Insurance please call us at (800) 622-7370.


Source:  Nick Ellerson.  “Verbal abuse from parents, coaches is causing a referee shortage in youth sports.” washingtonpost.com. 16 June 2017.

Soccer Injuries and Deaths Due to Tipped Goals

| Soccer

It shouldn’t happen, but it does

This won’t be the first time we post about a tragedy involving tipping soccer goals.  I hope it’s the last.

A 9-year-old boy died after a soccer goal post came crashing down on his head. The indoor soccer goal tipped after the boy jumped up and grabbed onto the crossbar.

Easily preventable tragedies

People find it hard to believe anyone could die or even be badly injured in a goal-tipping accident. But children playing on soccer goals results in at least one death and hundreds of injuries every year.

Never permit climbing or hanging on goals. Always anchor the goals be sure the posts are well-padded. Obviously, players and parents should always be informed of the potential risks associated with moveable soccer goals.

Click here to obtain a copy of the ASTM Guide for Safer Use of Movable Soccer Goals.


Source: Tina Moore, Daniel Prendergast and Khristina Narizhnaya. “‘His face turned blue’: 9-year-old boy dies while playing soccer.” nypost.com. 17 Sept. 2017.

California Youth Sports Concussion Law Ramped Up

State aspires to greater concussion education and caution

A California youth sports concussion law that broadens the current return-to-play law went into effect January 1, 2017.

The previous return-to-play legislation only applied to scholastic sports, as is the case in many jurisdictions across the country. The new law applies to all youth sports organizations that are defined as camps, competitions or clubs in which participants are under the age of 18.

The changes involved

The additional law surrounding youth sports concussions and head injuries could result in significant changes in operations for many organizations. Specific stipulations in the law include:

  • Concussion and head injury information must be distributed to and signed by athletes and parents/guardians every year prior to play. The material must include information regarding head injuries, potential consequences of such injuries, concussion signs and symptoms, best practices for athlete removal from play upon suspicion of a concussion, and return to play.
  • Every organization’s coaches and administrators must be offered concussions/head injury education and/or materials every year. Education materials must include the same information as that distributed to parents and athletes.
  • Immediate removal of any athlete suspected of suffering a head injury. Athletes can only resume play upon submission of written clearance from a licensed healthcare professional trained in concussion management. Athletes diagnosed with a concussion or head injury will only resume participation on a gradual return-to-play protocol for no fewer than seven days under the supervision of a licensed healthcare provider.
  • Parents/guardians of athletes suspected of suffering a head injury or concussion must be notified of the date/time the injury occurred, the symptoms displayed and the treatment received.
  • Youth sports organizations must identify the procedures that were adopted or adapted to comply with the new law.

Liability fallout

The new law could spark interesting legal scenarios:

  • The new higher standards of care and increased obligations could be the basis for an injured athlete suing for negligence.  An organization’s procedures and implementation will have to comply fully with the law’s requirements to meet the duty of care owed under the law of negligence.
  • Any youth sports organization that doesn’t provide the mandated information and education to athletes, parents and coaches prior to play will likely have more difficulty in relying on assumption of risk defense and waiver/release for protection.
  • The youth sports organization’s obligation to to provide greater education for and oversight of all coaches means they will have a duty of general supervision to make sure that coaches receive the proper training and make the right decisions.
  • Sports equipment manufacturers and distributors may be able to avoid liability based on an alleged equipment defect if they can show the sports organization failed to comply with the law.

New California Law Likely To Be Adopted By Other States

It’s likely that California’s broader concussion law will spur similar changes in other states. All 50 states and the District of Columbia already have concussion laws on the books, and there is both a need and demand for more comprehensive concussion education efforts for coaches, players and parents – particularly in the areas of removing suspected injured players from play and returning injured players.

The CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control offers sports organizations resources on complying with the law. We invite you to peruse our extensive library of articles on concussions and brain injuries on our blog and check out our free concussion risk management material.


Source: Anne Marie Ellis and Paul A. Alarcon. “New California Law Will Change Youth Sports Concussion Cases.” www.lexicology.com. 23 March, 2017.

U.S. Soccer Federation Sets New Header Rules For Ages 13 & Under

Reducing exposure to head injuries in the youngest players

New safety regulations were announced by the United States Soccer Federation in an effort to reduce the number of head injuries. These include the specific policy that restricts players under age 10 from heading the ball and reducing headers during practice for players aged 11 to 13.

Establishment of the new guidelines resolves a class-action lawsuit filed against FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization alleging negligence in treating and monitoring head injuries. Plaintiffs sought no financial compensation, only changes to the rules.

The guidelines are mandatory for all national U.S. Soccer youth teams and academies, which includes Major League Soccer youth club teams. They will serve as recommendations for associations and program not overseen by U.S. Soccer.

Recommendations go beyond heading the ball

Modifications were also made to substitution rules in an attempt to protect players suspected of having suffered concussions. The current rules are for three substitutions per game, but don’t allow for temporary substitutions so players sustaining a head injury can be properly examined.

The new initiative also calls for increased education for parents, players, coaches and referees, as well uniformity in handling youth concussions. The intention of these educational efforts could will lead to a better understanding and acceptance of the heading rules for children.


Source: Ben Strauss, “U.S. Soccer Resolving Lawsuit Will Limit Headers.” nytimes.com. 09 Nov, 2015.

Soccer Goal Tipping Hazards

Unanchored goals pose danger to players

I came across a fantastic CBS News video that explains exactly how unanchored soccer goals can tip over and seriously injure or kill a child. At least one child fatality  and 200 injuries from tipped soccer goals are reported each year. Soccer goals can weigh several hundred pounds and cause catastrophic bodily damage, such as a crushed skull or broken limbs, when they tip over and come in contact with players. Coaches, players, and parents need to be educated on this topic and should check soccer goals prior to every practice and game to make sure they are properly anchored.

Sports General Liability insurance carriers that insure soccer organizations must often absorb full policy limit lawsuits resulting from these death claims.

You can view the video by following this link.

Concussions among girl soccer players

Why are girls more vulnerable?

Middle school girl soccer players suffer more concussions than girls in high school and college. Researchers say incorrect heading techniques and the young girls’ less developed brains and neck muscles are likely contributors to the rate of concussions.

What’s adding to the problem

A recent study found 59 concussions among 351 girls aged 11 to 14. Participants in the study complained of dizziness, headaches, inability to concentrate and being drowsy. Exacerbating the problem is that many continue to play despite their symptoms, risking a second injury.

Despite the experts advising that players not return to practice or games until symptoms disappear, 58 percent of the players in the study continued to play even with symptoms persisting,  according to the study’s co-author Melissa Schiff, professor of epidemiology.

The same study found that heading the ball was the cause of 30 percent of the players’ concussions and more than 50 percent were the result of Girls heading ballplayer collisions.

Looking to lower the numbers

The rate head injuries among young girls linked to heading the ball doesn’t surprise John Kuluz of Miami Children’s Hospital.

“I see it all the time,” he said. Kuluz’s advice: athletes who have suffered a concussion should avoid heading the ball.

Oddly enough, concussions resulted 23 times more frequently in games than during practice. Should heading the ball be banned to reduce the number of head injuries?  Some suggest that middle school athletes should be taught proper heading technique in practice but prohibit its use in play until high school.

The study was published in the Jan 2014 online issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

More information on concussions and risk management are available on the Sadler Sports Insurance website.

Source: Kathleen Doheny, “Concussions Common in Middle School.”  Healthday. 20 Jan 2014.

Sadler Family Experiences Costly Sports Injury

Accident insurance makes all the difference.

My son, John Sadler, Jr., suffered a tibia/fibula fracture during his high school soccer team’s firJohn2st round playoff game in early May. He plays forward and was taking a shot when the goalie charged out and slid into hiupperlowers planted foot, snapping his leg through the shin guard.

I heard the loud pop from 50 yards away and was hoping it was the plastic shin guard doing its job but…. This injury was similar to the gruesome injury suffered by the basketball player, Kevin Ware, except that John’s bone thankfully did not penetrate the skin.

Orthopedic surgeon Jeffrey Guy repaired the break with an intramedullary nail (IM) procedure where a titanium rod is inserted from the knee down the inside of the tibia to the ankle and affixed with two stabilizing screws (see his actual x-rays). Click  here for a video animation of the surgery.

Dr. Guy is confident of a full recovery and return to play. The average return to activity time is a little over five months. At one and a half months post surgery, John is now walking with one crutch and actually participating in races in a summer swim league.

Here is a list of the medical bills so far, which have totaled $49,906 with a lot more to follow:

Ambulance:$554                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Anesthesiologist: $7,405
Medical Supplies: $11,801
Hospital Room & Board: $1,890
Drugs: $5,319
Operating Room: $1,453
Radiology: $2,668
Crutches/wheelchair: $369
Surgeon’s Fees: $14,833
Doctors Visits: $413
Physical Therapy: $1,407
Miscellaneous: $1,794

Fortunately, we have a fantastic group Health Insurance plan and have already met our family deductible for the year. But if we didn’t have insurance or if our insurance had a large deductible or coinsurance, it would definitely be a huge problem. This is why is it critical for sports organizations to carry a quality Excess Accident policy with a high limit of coverage.

– John Sadler

Frances Sadler Gets Hat Trick

Frances SadlerFrances Sadler recently scored three goals and assisted in another for the Hammond School Varsity Girls Soccer team against Wilson High School. Frances is in the 10th grade and plays forward.

See the full article for details.

Source: The Columbia Star, April 19, 2013

Soccer Protective Headgear Debate

Manufacturer Refutes NBC Interview Criticism

We recently posted “Concussion Experts on Protective Soccer Headgear” about NBC Rock Center’s story that drew the conclusion that headgear devices such as Full90 were not effective.

Since then, the manufacturer of the product, Jeff Skeen, contacted us with the following rebuttal:

This story is completely one sided and misleading. I was interviewed by NBC for almost 4 hours. For much of the time we specifically reviewed the two peer reviewed, published studies on Full90 headgear. Yet for some reason, it was never mentioned in the NBC segment. If fact, they allowed a doctor to even imply there are no peer reviewed studies when they had them in their hands!

One of the studies titled “The effectiveness of protective headgear in reducing the incidence of head injuries among adolescent soccer players,” which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concluded that players NOT wearing the Full90 headgear had 2.65 times as many concussions which is about a 60% reduction for those who were wearing it. We do not make the claim, we are simply saying what an independent peer review study concluded. No study is perfect, but this was conducted by a major university and peer reviewed. Obviously like all safety equipment, we cannot use live subjects for testing and must rely upon laboratory testing. Opponents will always claim the studies had some weakness. There will always be those that claim there is not enough evidence.

The nice girl they featured apparently had 6 concussions and then began to use headgear and had several more. There is Concusison rates in girls soccernow a law in the state of Texas named after her called “Natasha’s Law.” This law requires parents and their child’s doctors to sign releases before the child can return to play after a concussion. It seems to me that the NBC segment should have focused on this, not trying to blame the headgear. There is consensus in the medical community that even a single concussion increases your risk factor of getting another by 400-600%.

There is no product that can eliminate all injuries and we certainly do not claim that ours will. We are trying to reduce the probability of injury by reducing the force reaching the head.

Keep in mind the exact arguments against our headgear are the same that were used against hockey helmets, ski helmets, seat belts, bike helmets, lacrosse eyewear, rugby helmets, and even shin guards.

Check out the story, NBC Report on Concussions – What Was Missed? which is more balanced.