If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you will note that I repost or link to articles discussing the issue with heading in youth soccer. Many “head trauma” articles as they relate to soccer focus on head-to-head trauma, head-to-ground, or head-to-post. My experience has taught me heading the ball, particularly punted balls and long kicks, can be painful and damaging.
It all started in my third year of coaching. I was coaching a U10 boys game in an Academy league that was really nothing more than recreation soccer with more emphasis on results (not a true academy experience — that is another topic). So, we were playing the best team. They relied on speed and punted balls to threaten. Their keeper, likely selected for his punting prowess, punts a ball that is going to cross midfield. One of our defenders, the biggest, strongest boy on the team, heads the ball. He immediately gets dizzy, has to come out, and gets sick later. That experience has shaped my perspective on this topic for years.
While I feel it important to teach proper heading, I discourage heading of punted balls or long balls (or balls at great speeds). I coach mainly boys who play in the most competitive league in Houston so it can be tough. But, I recommend this article to all who follow. While it focuses on girls, my experience is boys head the ball more (yes, their necks are stronger, but still).
And, thankfully, now my U10s play in a true academy league where there is no punting, must play out from the back, and emphasis on passing and dribbling.
I love this sport. I spend a lot of my free time on soccer fields. I sure hope that we are not too stubborn to consider safety precautions to minimize risk of injury in it. Remember, the old schoolers complained when shin guards became mandatory. The old, old schoolers complained when the game changed from kicking the dribbler in the shins (without guards) to proper tackling….just saying.