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No hands…and no heads: An argument to end heading in soccer at all levels

Football header
Monday, 11 March 2019 By Jeremi Duru

Soccer sits at a troubling crossroads. With each passing year, the damage the game poses to its players’ brains becomes increasingly evident.1 The sport’s governing bodies, however, have in the author’s view reacted slowly and ineffectually, instituting weak concussion protocols – such as those revealed during the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be nothing more than “eye candy2 – and altering some rules for children playing the game.

For the good of soccer and its participants, far more must be done. In this author’s opinion, and based on research set out below, the act of heading, which presents the risk of both concussive and sub-concussive blows, must be eliminated from soccer at all levels. Anything less exposes soccer and its institutions to the litigation and public relations consequences the United States of America’s National Football League (the NFL) has endured.

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Jeremi Duru

Jeremi Duru

Professor of Law, Washington College of Law American University

Professor N. Jeremi Duru teaches sports law, civil procedure, and employment discrimination, and he is among the nation’s foremost sports law authorities. He is a co-author of one of the field’s premier casebooks, Sports Law and Regulation: Cases and Materials (4th edition) (Wolters Kluwer), as well as one of the field’s premier explorations of sports agency, The Business of Sports Agents (3rd edition) (U. of Penn Press). In addition, he is the sole author of Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL (Oxford University Press), which examines the NFL’s movement toward increased equality of opportunity for coaches and front office personnel.

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