The Arizona Youth Soccer Association and Arizona Interscholastic Association enacted bylaws limiting header usage and created a concussion awareness campaign to tackle the issue of head injuries in soccer.
According the Arizona Youth Soccer Association, the new campaign, is an extension of the Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports campaign” and the main goals are to provide informative materials for coaches, players, parents and medical professionals in order to ensure youth soccer players are getting proper treatment and care. The campaign is a result of a partnership with the Banner Concussion Center.
Tim Beeler, the state referee administrator said AYSA has taken extensive measures to increase player safety by increasing the flow of information on concussion education. Soccer is a contact sport and there is no padding or helmets making athletes very prone to concussions, he added.
Referees play a critical role in the safety of players as they have the authority to request a player be removed if they suspect a head injury, Beeler said. All referees are required to complete “an official training and pass a test” in order to become certified, Beeler added. The test includes modules on head injuries.
According the “AYSA Concussion or Head Injury Policy” referees are required to “note on the game card that a player suffered a head injury” and mail the player’s pass to the
AYSA office. Players cannot return to play until they have “received written clearance from a licensed Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) prior to returning to play. The AYSA “Concussion Return to Play Form” is required as well.
Ashtyn Turnbow, 21, played soccer for eleven years and participated in both club leagues and high school soccer. Turnbow said it was not uncommon for a teammate to suffer a head injury and recalls different teammates getting evaluated by medical professionals after being hit in the head with a ball, going for a header, or colliding with another player.
A teammate once “got hit pretty hard in the head and went down,” Turnbow said. The player was immediately evaluated by a medical professional and was given specific instructions on recovery. The coach, parents and the player were all in mutual agreement on the player missing practice and physical activities as safety is the highest priority, she added.
Turnbow said education and awareness on head injuries are crucial in ensuring the safety of youth soccer players and in preventing a more severe injury. “I think it is important that players come from the mindset that safety is first,” Turnbow said. Although many soccer players want to be tough and play through pain, it is important to “pay attention to what your body is telling you” instead of battling it out, she added.
According to The Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaws “all pre-season, regular season and postseason practices, specific heading activities shall not be conducted on consecutive days.” Another key bylaw requires coaches to conduct “no more than 15 minutes of practice time each day” for header training.
Stacey Crooks, the varsity soccer coach for Glendale High School said every season she encounters approximately one to two concussions or possible head injuries. “In order to get cleared for sports students need to take a concussion awareness course,” Crooks said.
Crooks said the athletic trainer does a baseline reading that focuses on player memory and cognitive function. When a player suffers a head injury, the baseline number is used as the standard for the student to retest and return to play, she added.
High school coaches are required to participate in concussion training as well, Crooks said. This knowledge allows her to perform basic tests such as asking players if they know their “name, the year, and where they are at” and checking pupils or inquiring about nausea. She added. If my players are showing any signs that are usually linked to a concussion I remove them from play, Crooks said.
The specific guidelines from AIA are always followed, Crooks said. Crooks said her team does not practice headers on consecutive days and usually spends no more than the indicated time.