END HEADERS? Soccer stars support change for youth players - KMSP-TV

END HEADERS? Soccer stars support change for youth players

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

When it comes to soccer, using your head can sometimes be just as important as using your feet -- but "heading" the ball time after time can lead to long-term problems for kids and athletes are now speaking out.

A star-studded lineup of former U.S. Women's Soccer players are leading the charge and are using the World Cup as a platform to start a discussion about changing the game at the youth level.

In soccer, a successful header involves combining timing, power and artistry -- but heading a ball during a match last hear left 17-year-old Sabrina Patlan with a serious concussion.

"It was a shot and I kind of ducked down and headed it," she reflected. "I was really dizzy. I went to school on Monday; I couldn't sit in my first class. I left right after."

Soccer-related brain injuries are now moving some of the most influential names in women's professional soccer -- including Brandy Chastain -- to say it's time to take that part of the game until players reach 14 years of age.

"It's that movement inside the skull itself that causes symptoms of concussions," Dr. Robert Doss, who co-directs the pediatric concussion program at Children's Hospital, explained.

Although Doss says there is no definitive study on the effects of "heading" the ball among young soccer players, he said that throughout childhood and adolescence, the brain is still developing. That means any injury could have long-term consequences.

"It's important to minimize any neurological trauma and injury during those years so the brain can develop in the normal manner," he said.

For now, the initiative is called Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer, and it seeks to encourage research in the area because a recent study found at least 30 percent of concussions in soccer are caused by headers. Already, Ted Kroetan is encouraging his young players at the Joy of the People soccer camp in St. Paul to focus on other aspects of their game.

"That age should be foot skills and ground work anyways," he said.

Yet, change is never easy -- especially when young soccer players see their heroes heading the ball regularly in World cup matches. Even so, checking in hockey has already disappeared, and many pee-wee football leagues no longer allow tackling in an effort to prevent concussions in young athletes.

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