MI Youth Soccer League changes rules for headers

Posted at 6:33 PM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 08:31:08-04

Kids in soccer are now seeing new rules.

The Michigan Youth Soccer League has banned heading for kids ages ten and under, and now limits the amount of heading in practice for kids 11 through 13.

Tatum Zurawski, 21, agrees with it. She is a senior and soccer player at University of Detroit Mercy who has been playing soccer since before kindergarten.

She didn’t think she would get hurt heading a ball. Then it happened during practice for a conference game in September 2015. Tatum headed a ball into the net.  She knew she connected with the ball awkwardly.

“It is supposed to hit your forehead your frontal bone, but instead the ball hit the top of my head,” she said.

She later felt dizzy and couldn’t concentrate. She had a concussion. She believes untrained kids are at much higher risk of such an injury.

“We know that kids are more susceptible to concussion,” said Dr. Brad Merker, a Division Head of Neuropsychology at Henry Ford Hospital. “There is potential for longer symptom duration as well as difficulties in school following concussion, so anything we can do to prevent them from having concussion at a young age is a step in the right direction."

Merker says he hopes coaches don’t just delay heading - but make sure kids know how to do it as safety as possible.

“With proper techniques, it also reduces the likelihood of them sustaining some type of injury,” said Dr. Merker.

Zurawski says the consequences of such an injury isn’t something little kids would think about. Older kids are more likely to take instruction on proper technique seriously.

“They aren’t going to think about heading the ball the right way,  because they are just excited about learning the game,” said Zurawski. “I would say this is definitely a good direction to go in.”

Dr. Merker says he hopes the league collects data now that the rule has changed, to show just how it changes the safety of the game.