It’s no surprise that soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world – from kids just learning the game, to dedicated players who regularly compete in championship tournaments. But, when it comes to safety, does headgear really protect you in the dangerous sport of soccer? According to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, wearing headgear can reduce the risk of a head injury by up to 50%. In this article, we’ll look at the facts behind wearing headgear in soccer, the pros and cons, and the most important safety measures players should take to protect themselves. So, if you’re looking for the ultimate headgear guide for soccer players, you’ve come to the right place. *Note: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience from which I may earn a small commission.
A common question
A common question I am asked is ‘what do you think about headgear in soccer?’ Headgear does not protect you 100% if you don’t head the ball right. There are 12+ different ways to head the ball. Heading the ball in games should not be done by players under the age of 12 if possible. If it’s practicing at home or with a trainer the right way, it’s a different story. Practicing should be done from close up with a light underhand toss using a softer ball. Watch the video at the bottom to learn 20 tips on heading.
Is headgear phased out in soccer?
Back around 2010 you saw headgear making a marketing run in soccer/futbol. Why do you not see it as much?
Anytime something is new it creates a spark. If it works really well or the marketed is good most products will sell.
Headgear isn’t something that doesn’t work. More important is, our coaches should be teaching how to head the ball better.
Every now and then I’ll see someone wearing headgear on the pitch… Less than 1% of youth and adult players use the headgear. This doesn’t mean that I’m saying not to. You do what’s best for you. My job is to try and help you make the choice.
Below let’s look at how to head the ball properly. Knowing how is vital if you want to protect yourself or the kids.
Protecting soccer players from concussions
Protection of our athletes is vital! Therefore, as we continue to receive additional knowledge from the pros in our sport, and others we realize how much we don’t know about the body, injuries, treatment. Specifically about the brain and concussions.
What we do know is that kids play much more competitively now. Much earlier, and without the physical developmental characteristics required for proper protection.
Kids don’t have the neck muscle, body and spatial awareness or brain formation complete enough to be heading balls at an early age. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
As a father, I cannot encourage my daughters to be aggressive and head the ball before the age of 12. [although this number may change as more research is done].
20 tips for heading the soccer ball
Watch the video below to learn different ways to head the ball.
You need to know what to do with your arms, body position and parts of the head to connect.
Every player 11 years and older needs to know these.
Younger players ages 8-10 should also be introduced to these tips. Kids are smart and will soak this teaching up. Then when they are older it’s not foreign to them.
Proper training is required for heading the ball!
I have seen pros trying to do a demonstration on television of heading and it is WRONG!
For younger players ages 11-12, heading the ball should also be done with a softer ball. This will help teach how to head and build confidence. In addition, it should be done to teach for terms of where, when, and protection.
What ages should practice heading?
The “new rule” for youth soccer players in America was set around 2015. I believe it prevents players ages 11 and under not to be allowed to head the ball in games or practice.
Ages 10+ should be learning and practicing, to be introduced and to build skill.
How to introduce heading:
Just today I was at home practicing with my 8 year old. She asked for me to toss some balls for her to head. So what I did was find the softest / lightest ball.
From 3-4 feet away I lightly tossed the ball for her to head back to me. I tossed about 5 of these to her. After that, I went to the side and tossed 5 from her left and 5 from her right.
This amount was to get her used to heading a crossed ball into the goal.
At this age, I just wanted to introduce it, not get lots of reps. She loved it!
It is clear from the evidence that protective headgear can potentially reduce the amount and severity of head injuries for soccer players. Whether it is scientifically proven or not, using headgear is a personal choice and one that must be made with consideration of the individual’s risk profile. Though there is still more research and discussion to be had, it is safe to say that wearing headgear as a soccer player can help to provide an extra layer of protection if the opportunities arise. In the words of US Soccer, “No material item can guarantee complete safety or prevent all injuries, but soccer players should wear the appropriate protective equipment, including headgear, based on the risk of injury.”
Here’s another blog post titled ‘What’s better head or chest?‘
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