Quebec Soccer Federation mulls ban on headers for kids under 12
Doctors are urging the Quebec Soccer Federation to adopt new rules to prevent concussions.
The league is hoping to grow the game by making it safer, especially for kids under 12.
Among the key recommendations: players under 12 should not be allowed to head soccer balls.
“If God meant for the ball to be played in the air, he'd put grass in the sky. So obviously we want to teach kids the technical skills of the game, keep it on the grass,” said Soccer Canada Development Director Jason Devos.
The guidelines are the work of Dr. Stephane Ledoux, who said heading the ball should only be introduced when players are stronger and properly trained.
“To develop neck muscles and control of the head, so when the heading phase will be introduced in the game, with better control of the head, we're hoping it’s going to diminish the incidents of concussion during a game,” said Ledoux.
He also recommends players only be allowed back when cleared by a medical professional, not a coach.
In March, Ontario passed a law regarding protocols for concussions in sport. In 2015, the U.S. Soccer Federation banned headers for players 10 and under.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport for Canadian children; 42 per cent play the game, according to a study by Heritage Canada, compared to 22 per cent for hockey.
In terms of the rates of concussions in North American team sports, soccer ranks third behind football and hockey, but because of sheer numbers, Ledoux said he sees more Quebec youth with concussions because of soccer than any other team sport.
“Once you have a concussion, you'd better be sure it's healed before returning to the game, otherwise you're prone to a second concussion. The more concussions you have, the more susceptible you are,” he explained.
Devos is a good fit to help to spearhead the new rules; the former Montreal Impact player was known for playing the game head first.
“My career as a professional, it was something that was a big part of my game, being the height that I am. But we have to learn, we have to continue to evolve. We have to change with it,” he said.