U.S. Youth Soccer, the largest sports organization in the country, has told its state officials to avoid speaking with media about concussions in soccer, according to The Courier-Journal.
The order to stop discussing concussions was issued in an April 24 email, according to the report. The message "strongly encourages" officials to not talk to the media requests related to the subject until "protocols are developed and new recommendations made," according to the report.
The email was provided to The Courier-Journal by Kentucky officials who disagreed with the directive.
The chairman of U.S. Soccer, John Sutter, did not say why the memo was sent, but the request was reportedly made because of pending litigation. In August, a group of soccer parents and former players filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against FIFA and a number of U.S.-based soccer organizations.
The president of the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association, Tim Turney, told The Courier-Journal that the order came from the U.S. Soccer Federation, which serves as a parent to U.S. Youth Soccer.
From 2001-2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there were an estimated 10,436 emergency room visits annually for soccer-related traumatic brain injuries in the United States. Research has indicated that brains of children are particularly vulnerable, which has led to debate in some circles over whether youth players should be heading the ball at all.
Among those concerned about youth headers is former U.S. women's national team star Brandi Chastain, who is leading an advocacy group called Parents and Pros for Safer Soccer.
“When a kid is younger, they don’t understand space awareness, timing, tactics or body position. They’re not physically strong enough,” Chastain told SI.com in September. “We should teach them other things now, so that when they’re 14 and they can understand more about heading, they’ll be more ready to head the ball than 8 year olds.”
- Stanley Kay