Focus on soccer safety grows amid new rule in UK banning heading during practice

A study done in Scotland showing professional soccer players are at a higher risk of dying from dementia than heart disease or cancer prompted changes in youth soccer safety.

DANVERS — When it comes to playing sports and keeping kids safe, soccer scores big points.

Mike Blanch coaches kids in Danvers and for Massachusetts Youth Soccer.

“Soccer has done more to prevent injuries, more so than other sports,” said Blanch.

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We asked him about a new rule in the UK banning heading during practice but not in games.

“I kind of agree with it. Studies have shown that heading at a young age does cause injuries when you get older,” Blanch said.

A study done in Scotland showing professional soccer players are at a higher risk of dying from dementia than heart disease or cancer prompted the changes in youth soccer safety. It went into effect Monday.

Here in the U.S., tough rules already exist.

At the Danvers Indoor Sports Center, no one under 14 can head a ball, period. Co-owner Kelly Cragg says safety is in soccer’s DNA.

“We set that bar at the U-14 age levels,” Cragg said. “All of staff is trained on the concussion protocols."

Blanch said coaches are trained to look for signs of injury and how to prevent it.

“In MYSA we need to take a concussion test and we have to do it every other year,” Blanch said.

As head injury awareness increases, keeping kids injury-free is the goal.

“Anytime we can keep kids safer, there has to be follow through,” Blanch said.