Chastain: I won’t let my kids do headers before high school

Chastain: I won’t let my kids do headers before high school

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, : US Brandi Chastain (R) and Canadian Charmaine Hooper (L) head the ball 01 July 2000, during their semifinal match in the Women's Gold Cup Tournament game in Louisville, KY. The US won the game 4-1 and will take on Brazil in the finals on 03 July in Foxboro, MA. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

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by USA TODAY

kgw.com

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 8:53 AM

The World Cup has shown us how the world's best soccer players can use their heads to re-direct balls into the goal, including the tying score by Portugal in the final seconds versus the United States. A new concussion safety campaign is being mounted to delay use of headers by U.S. youth players until high school age.

The joint effort was announced Wednesday by the Sports Legacy Institute, based in Boston, and the Institute of Sports Law and Ethics, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

Brandi Chastain, whose penalty kick won the Women's World Cup for the USA against China in 1999, is on the board of the ISLE.

"I believe that the benefits of developing heading skills as children are not worth the thousands of additional concussions that youth soccer players will suffer," Chastain says in a press release.

"As a parent, I won't allow my children to head the ball before high school, and as a coach I would prefer my players focused solely on foot skills as they develop their love of the game. I believe this change will create better and safer soccer."

Robert Cantu, neurosurgeon and medical director of the Sports Legacy Institute, has advocated limits in contact across all youth sports, including soccer.

"Studies show that at least 30 percent of concussions is soccer are caused by heading a ball or attempting to head a ball and colliding with another player," Cantu says in the release.

"And evidence is mounting from studies of boxers and football (U.S. football) players that the younger one is exposed to repetitive brain trauma, the greater the risk of later consequences. I have been forced to retire far too many young athletes with post-concussion syndrome due to having suffered multiple concussions prior to high school, and this is a clear opportunity to make soccer safer without hurting the game."

The two groups are calling their campaign Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer (PASS). They have a website: SaferSoccer.org.

In February, the Sports Legacy Institute, in collaboration with other investigators in Boston, identified what they said was the first case reported of chronic traumatic encephalopathy – the degenerative brain disease known as CTE – in a soccer player.

Their report said CTE was found in the examination after death of the brain of former soccer player Patrick Grange.

Grange died in 2012 at age 29. The report said he had been diagnosed 21 months earlier with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and had played soccer for 12 years through college and semi-pro. It said he started heading the ball at age five.

Chris Nowinski, executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, is scheduled to testify Wednesday at a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington. The hearing, to be held by the Senate Special Committee on Aging, is looking into long-term impacts of sports-related brain injuries.

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