Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Do new rules make soccer safer?

November 16, 2015

Last week the U.S. Soccer Federation avoided further litigation on a class-action lawsuit by agreeing to new rules for youth soccer players. The rules now bar players 10 and younger from heading the soccer ball, and athletes 11 to 13 will be limited in the number of times they can practice headers during practice.

The rules were initiated because a group of soccer parents and players had sued U.S. Soccer, asking for more stringent rules to handle concussions, especially from players heading the ball. But some say the rules don’t go far enough in protecting young athletes.

For example, the Concussion Legacy Foundation says that players 14 and under should never head the soccer ball, but does agree the new rules are a step in the right direction.

But is delaying heading the ball the best way to protect players from concussions? A study released in September from the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that, among high school players studied, heading was responsible for the highest proportion of concussions in boys—30 percent—and girls—25 percent.

The most interesting part of the study, though, is that slamming into another player, rather than heading the ball itself, seems to be what causes the most header-related injuries. Because of that, the authors of the study concluded that banning heading itself won’t have that much effect on preventing concussions, unless it is somehow linked with efforts to reduce contact between players.

And then there is the coaching faction that claims that the U.S. will fall behind the rest of the world in soccer development, if youngsters aren’t taught the “correct” way to play the game from youth soccer on.

Everyone agrees that players need to be kept as safe as possible playing soccer, at any age. Whether it’s mandating the use of headgear or limiting headers, the goal is to keep young athletes, and their brains, healthy. The new rules may be a first step in developing ways to do just that.

Photo courtesy jax youth soccer

Photo courtesy jax youth soccer

Rules of Engagement

September 17, 2015

It’s happened again.

In the span of just over a week, another high school referee has been assaulted during a football game, and again it happened in Texas.

This time the incident involved a player from San Antonio’s St. Anthony High School who, video shows, shoved a referee following an altercation on the field during the game.

Here’s the setup: The player had been penalized for being involved in a scuffle on the field during play, but after the flag was thrown the player pushed the referee who called the penalty by the shoulders before his teammates pulled him away.

No surprise, the player was tossed from the game after that.

Of course, all this comes on the heels of the incident at John Jay High School the week before, where video shows two John Jay players targeting a backfield judge, one knocking the referee down, the second one spearing him as he was on the ground.

What is precipitating these acts? Maybe there is no correlation between the two. In the case of the John Jay incident, the players now are claiming the targeted referee used racial slurs against them. For his part, the umpire is considering criminal charges.

But now we have video of the incidents, and we can see how disturbing the acts are. And perhaps it all has to do with the pressure of winning, especially in football-mad Texas. For his part, the top athletic official in John Jay’s school district, said, “This is the first time I’ve ever witnessed and experienced (anything like this) in the realm of athletics.”

While coaches have the responsibility to teach their players the lessons of sportsmanship and fair play, event organizers now have the responsibility of what to do when the rules aren’t followed. In Indiana, for example, referees suspended a season-opening football game after players got into a shoving match, which seems pretty tame after the referee-assault incidents we’ve now seen.

Schools and athletic conferences as well as event rights holders who produce out-of-school events now have to worry about not just the safety of players, but the safety of the referees, umpires and others paid to keep order at the games. The bottom line is, this has to stop to keep organized sports alive. Today, the issue is football. Tomorrow, it just might be basketball.

Photo courtesy of MaxPreps.

Photo courtesy of MaxPreps.

Keeping Spectators Safe

September 2, 2015

Anyone in the events business knows that one big concern is keeping spectators safe. Often the emphasis is at the point of entry: Checking bags and ‘wanding’ spectators is now the norm at professional sporting events, and is happening more and more at the amateur level.

But now, safety issues are shifting to venues themselves. The issue has turned tragic this past week, with the death of a spectator at Turner Field, who fell over the railing of an upper deck. It’s the third fatal fall at Turner Field since 2008. Earlier this month, Justin Verlander and other Detroit Tigers called for baseball to extend netting to protect fans after a fan was struck in the seats at Comerica Park, and that comes after a spectator was seriously hurt at a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway.

We know that attending a sporting event carries its own level of risk, as is spelled out on the backs of most of our event tickets. But railing height has been almost as much of an issue as extending the nets down the base lines to protect fans. Atlanta Braves’ officials say the new Braves stadium is designed to have higher railings, even though the present railings meet safety standards. The International Building Code mandates that venues like Turner Field and the Rangers’ ballpark, where, four years ago, a fan reached over the outfield wall to retrieve a tossed baseball and fell 20 feet to his death, have rail heights of 33 inches, increasing to 42 inches at the base of aisles. Those guidelines still have not prevented fan-falling incidents at those parks as well as the Georgia Dome and St. Louis’ Busch Stadium in recent years.

And here are some sobering stats: There are 53,000 foul balls that enter the seats every year, according to Edwin Comber, creator of And 1,750 spectators are injured every season by batted balls at major league games, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg News.

It will be costly for stadiums to upgrade their facilities, and they’re reluctant to obstruct lines of sight because they don’t want to encourage fans to stay at home where they can get an even clearer, closer view of the game from their HD television. But if it continues to become a major safety issue, something will need to be done, and soon. Don’t wait for someone else to die.

Photo courtesy pa baseball netting.

Photo courtesy pa baseball netting.

Communication is the Key

July 13, 2015

It may be summertime where you are, but in sports you know you’re always planning a season (or more) ahead. I was reminded of that this week, when a local high school sent out a letter to parents and boosters regarding this year’s football season. Some of the points in the letter are applicable not just for football, but for all youth sports. Some excerpts:

  • “Each coach will hold a USA Football Heads Up Certification and will instruct with positive feedback, excitement, fun and plenty of repetition for every player. Our philosophy is kids will not get better standing on the sideline.”
  • “Each parent will be asked to contribute a small amount of time to help our league put together an organization we can all be proud of. We will not be successful in giving our kids the experience they deserve unless everyone takes some personal interest in the success of the league.”
  • “Our mission is to get kids on the field and provide them with a safe and fun atmosphere to display their efforts and talent….we want our sport to be available to anyone that wishes to participate so there are three ways (to) pay the..registration. Another option is scholarship. No one…that wishes to play football will be denied that opportunity based on finances.”

There are some good points in that letter, including having coaches properly trained, asking parents to get involved and making sure everyone participates, regardless of their ability to pay. And isn’t that what we want for all our kids, no matter what sport they may want to play?