What age can you head the ball in soccer? The U.S. Soccer has implemented a policy that prohibits children aged 10 and under from heading the ball during games and practice.
Key Takeaways From This Article:
- In youth soccer, most leagues allow players to head the ball starting at U12.
- The heading restrictions were set in place to prevent concussions and other head injuries.
- For youth players who are allowed to head the ball, you should practice proper technique (here’s a helpful video).
Obviously heading the ball is an essential skill that helps players become an all-around player but there has been a prioritization over safety. This is especially true for younger soccer players.
The goal of these rules is to reduce the risk of concussions and other head injuries, which can have serious long-term consequences.
Soccer Heading Rules (by Age)
The following are the soccer heading rules that U.S. soccer teams and organizations should abide by.
- 10 Years or Younger: No heading allowed whatsoever. Coaches are not allowed to teach heading techniques and referees should blow the whistle if a player intentionally heads the ball in a game.
- 11 to 13 Years Old: More of a gray area but it’s advised that players are limited to 15 and 20 headers per week. Practicing headers should be limited to less than 30 minutes per week.
- 14 Years and Older: There are no limitations and players are free to practice headers and perform headers during games.
It’s important to note that teams in the U.S. are organized by age groups. For example, kids that are 10 years old are considered U11 (under 11). So, if a 10-year-old is playing up on a U13 team, they technically cannot head the ball since the rules are age-based and not team-based.
Personally, I think the implementation of the rule is great for kids. You’ll always have some younger kids trying to head the ball out of instinct. They’ll get called for the penalty but the game just proceeds. As a parent, you don’t want to see your child bang heads with someone or not head the ball properly. At younger ages, it’s just easiest to avoid it altogether!
The Risks of Heading the Ball
Heading the ball is a fundamental skill in soccer, but it comes with risks. Here are some of the risks associated with heading the ball:
Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries
Concussions are a common injury in soccer, and heading the ball is one of the main causes.
A concussion occurs when the brain hits the inside of the skull, causing damage to brain cells.
Symptoms of a concussion can include headache, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness. If you feel any of these symptoms you should immediately sit on the bench.
Traumatic brain injuries are more severe than concussions and can have long-lasting effects. They occur when there is a blow to the head that causes damage to the brain.
Players who experience symptoms of a concussion or a traumatic brain injury should seek immediate medical attention.
It’s not worth it to just wait and see what happens. Anything related to the head or neck should be taken very seriously at all times.
Long-Term Effects of Heading in Soccer
Significant research has shown that heading the ball can have long-term effects on a player’s brain health.
Some studies have found that soccer players who frequently head the ball have a higher risk of developing cognitive impairments later in life, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s important to note that the risks of heading the ball can vary depending on a player’s age, skill level, and the frequency and intensity of heading.
Younger players may be more vulnerable to head injuries because their brains are still developing, and they may not have the skills to properly execute a header.
Additionally, players who frequently head the ball may be at a higher risk of injury than those who only do it occasionally.
Of course, this is intensified if a player collides heads with another player, falls straight back with their head hitting the ground first, or gets kicked in the head.
Whatever the case may be, you should be cautious, especially in practices and pieces of training to mitigate any potential head injury.
After conducting some personal research and analyzing the current rules and regulations set by U.S. Soccer, it is clear that the safety of young soccer players is of utmost importance.
The governing body has taken significant steps to minimize the risk of head injuries caused by heading the ball.
I think this is a great move to protect the longevity of players and understand that the overall health of the human is a priority.
Frequently Asked Questions
Teams can start heading the soccer ball starting at U12. Players younger than 11 are not allowed to head the ball in practice or games.
US Soccer doesn’t allow U11 players and younger to head the ball in games or practices.
Common signs of a concussion include headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise, blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and changes in mood or behavior.
No, heading is not allowed in 9v9 games unless players are older than 11 years old.