Soccer games for kids continues to grow as it’s just a great sport. Concussions, too, are growing just as fast – not so great!
The all important aspect of properly heading the soccer ball has become critical in ensuring the well being of young athletes. Improperly heading the soccer ball can cause serious head injuries. [See Concussions Caused by Soccer.]
In order to reduce concussion risk (or any other injury) below are some tips on how to properly head the ball:
Keep Eye on the Ball While in Flight
Many young athletes make the mistake of taking their eye off the ball as it travels through in the air.
Just like catching a fly ball in baseball, the same type of technique applies with winning a header. In many cases, players will misjudge the flight of the ball due to taking their eyes off it as it travels.
By keeping an eye continuously on the ball as it travels players will increase their chance of positioning themselves in the proper location to make an advancing play off their head.
Talk to Teammates While Ball is In Air
We have all seen a situation where two teammates attempt to win the same ball out of the air with a header. Many times a collision occurs due to the teammate’s failure to communicate whose ball it is prior to it being played.
This is not only detrimental to advancing the ball but can also exposure athletes to a significant risk of injury.
It is important for athletes to call out “mine!” or some other phrase that will emphasize to other teammates to stay clear.
The Forehead is the Sweet Spot
The forehead, which is the thickest part of the skull, is the sweet spot when it comes to playing head balls out of the air. Not only is the risk of a concussion significantly diminished due to the added protection, but the forehead also allows players to generate a maximum level of power and control.
Aim for the center of your forehead just about where the hairline is.
Keep Your Eyes Open Until Contact is Made
Young players will have the courage to step under a ball to play it with their head, but despite their best intentions, close their eyes before initiating contact.
By taking their eye of the ball prior to contact, athletes are exposing themselves to striking the ball with the wrong part of the head, not only increasing the risk of a concussion but also diminishing the accuracy and power of the header.
Push Through the Ball at Contact
Making contact with the ball with the forehead is not the only characteristic of playing a good header. Headers are played to either advance the ball into an attacking position or to put a shot on goal.
In order for players to make the most out of the header they must position themselves to push their head through the ball when contact is made.
See also 8 Tips to Avoid Soccer Injuries.
Suspect a concussion? Even the mildest head injury symptoms are not to be ignored; concussion treatment can range from using pain relievers for headaches to plain and simple rest. Rest consists of both physical and mental rest. School days may be missed but you cannot take any chances on cutting corners on treating a concussion.