U.S. Soccer is taking a huge step in addressing concussions and youth players.
The federation, in conjunction with a broad consortium of youth soccer organizations, announced on Monday a new campaign "designed to improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents, and players."
The initiative comes out of the resolution the Mehr youth soccer concussion litigation, which included US defendants the United States Soccer Federation, United States Youth Soccer Association, American Youth Soccer Organization, US Club Soccer and the California Youth Soccer Association.
In collaboration with the plaintiffs, U.S. Soccer and the other defendants agree to:
- Improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents and players
- Instill uniform concussion management and return-to-play protocols for youth players
- Modify substitution rules to allow players who may have suffered a concussion during games to be evaluated without penalty
- Prohibit heading the ball for children 10 and under and limit the activity to practice only for ages 11 to 13.
"We filed this litigation in effort to focus the attention of U.S. Soccer and its youth member organizations on the issue of concussions in youth soccer,” Steve Berman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “With the development of the youth concussion initiative by U.S. Soccer and its youth members, we feel we have accomplished our primary goal and, therefore, do not see any need to continue the pursuit of the litigation. We are pleased that we were able to play a role in improving the safety of the sport for soccer-playing children in this country."
"The development of a player safety initiative was under way before the current lawsuit was filed,” U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn said in a statement. "In constructing the concussion component, U.S. Soccer sought input from its medical science committee, which includes experts in the field of concussion diagnosis and management, as well as from its technical advisors, and worked with its youth members to develop a true consensus-based program. We are pleased that the plaintiffs and their counsel recognize the steps we have taken and look forward to sharing the benefits of the youth concussion initiative with players, coaches, officials and parents."
The new initiatives, including the heading guidelines for children, are not requirements, according to U.S. Soccer, but recommendations for youth members due to the fact that U.S. Soccer and the other organizations do not have direct authority at the local level to require adoption of those rules.
U.S. Soccer, however, has implemented these rules as requirements for players that are part of U.S. Soccer's youth national teams and the Development Academy, though youth national teams will continue to be bound by the substitution rules of any events or competitions they participate in.