More than 6 million kids (age 6-18) in the United States play soccer, making it one of the country’s most popular youth sports. Soccer, like other sports, has risks of injury, particularly concussion.
Studies suggest more than half of concussions in soccer occur during heading attempts, but it’s not usually because of heading the ball. The most common cause of concussion in soccer? Colliding with the ground or another player when trying to head the ball.
US Soccer limits heading to players age 11 and older to decrease injury risk for younger players. Learning to head a soccer ball requires learning how to control your body, understand space and be in the air. Unfortunately, no standardized program exists to train kids to head the ball properly as they grow in the sport.
We developed AERIAL, with VICIS and former Seattle Sounder Roger Levesque, to teach kids to head the ball properly and compete in the air. AERIAL is a training program to prepare young soccer players to effectively engage in aerial challenges and improve purposeful heading.
The goal of the program is to prevent collisions and thereby concussions by improving:
• Heading technique
• Core strength
• Awareness of the body in space during aerial maneuvers
Our Next Move
Following an initial pilot study of AERIAL, our researchers are exploring how the program impacted heading performance and safety. Researchers plan to launch larger scale studies to determine the program’s impact on injury risk, with the ultimate programmatic goal of reducing player-to-player collisions and the incidence of head injuries in youth soccer.
But we can’t do this alone. We’re currently raising funds to complete additional pilot tests in the Seattle-area. If we’re able to raise more funds, we plan to study AERIAL with youth athletes around the country in 2020.
MAKE A GIFT to The Sports Institute today to help us study the AERIAL training program and bring our research to more youth athletes!
To learn more or support this effort in a different way, contact us: AERIAL@uw.edu.