Taylor Twellman

No more heading: US Soccer unveils new concussion protocol for youth soccer


Following 15 months of litigation, U.S. Soccer announced on Monday a brand new series of initiatives designed to reduce the number of concussions suffered by youth soccer players, including the limitation and/or outright banning of heading the ball for players under the age of 13.

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Per the new protocol, children 10 and under will be barred from heading the ball during any official session — practice or game — while players ages 11 to 13 will have heading limited during training sessions.

From the U.S. Soccer press release:

The United States Soccer Federation and the other youth member defendants, with input from counsel for the plaintiffs, have developed a sweeping youth soccer initiative designed to (a) improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents and players; (b) implement more uniform concussion management and return-to-play protocols for youth players suspected of having suffered a concussion; (c) modify the substitution rules to insure such rules do not serve as an impediment to the evaluation of players who may have suffered a concussion during games; and (d) eliminate heading for children 10 and under and limit heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13. The complete details of the initiative along with a more comprehensive player safety campaign will be announced by U.S. Soccer in the next 30 days.

Steve Berman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs said: “We filed this litigation in effort to focus the attention of U.S. Soccer and its youth member organizations on the issue of concussions in youth soccer. With the development of the youth concussion initiative by U.S. Soccer and its youth members, we feel we have accomplished our primary goal and, therefore, do not see any need to continue the pursuit of the litigation. We are pleased that we were able to play a role in improving the safety of the sport for soccer-playing children in this country.”

The big question that immediately springs to mind is: how will these new restrictions on heading be enforced at the youth level, which is such a widespread community across the entirety of the U.S.? Another possible outcome to the banning/limiting of headers could see young American players grow much more comfortable operating with the ball at their feet from an early age, thus improving the quality of players coming through the system the next 10, 15 and 20 years.

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From the New York Times:

According to the original filing in the case, nearly 50,000 high school soccer players sustained concussions in 2010 — more players than in baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling combined.

Former U.S. national team and Major League Soccer striker Taylor Twellman, whose professional career was cut short by a series of concussions and never-ending post-concussion symptoms, was one of the first figures from “inside the game” to speak out and voice his approval on Monday.

EURO 2016: Loew bracing for Italy’s surprise in quarterfinal clash

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 26:  Joachim Loew, head coach of Germany reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Germany and Slovakia at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 26, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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BORDEAUX, France (AP) Germany coach Joachim Loew reckons Italy will try to catch his team out with an unexpected lineup when the two sides meet in their European Championship quarterfinal on Saturday.

Italy is sweating on the fitness of key midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who is laboring with a thigh injury, while his natural replacement Thiago Motta is suspended for the game in Bordeaux.

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Fellow midfielder Antonio Candreva is injured, and Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo were all ruled out before the tournament, giving Italy coach Antonio Conte a major problem to solve.

And Loew is bracing for the possible answer.

“We have to assume that the Italians will want to surprise us, that they’ll do something with the starting formation we hadn’t expected,” the Germany coach said Friday.

“De Rossi is a very good player; he was injured. Of course it’s important for Italy that he plays, but Italy have several good midfielders. Italy always finds a good solution.”

Loew has a full squad of 23 players to choose from as he bids to secure Germany’s first ever win over Italy at a major tournament.

And he is not taking anything for granted, despite the Azzurri’s injury problems as they prepare to face Loew’s world champions.

[ MORE: Wales shock Belgium | Portugal downs Poland on PKs ]

“The Italians are definitely at the same level,” Loew said.

Loew’s side was knocked out in the semifinal stage by Italy four years ago. He was assistant coach when Italy knocked Germany out of its home World Cup at the same stage in 2006. Of eight competitive meetings between the sides, Germany has won none.

Midfielder Mesut Ozil indicated that the players were tired of hearing about the past results.

“There was always the hype that we always failed against Italy in the big tournaments. But as a player you’re focused on the here and now. We want to show tomorrow that it can be different, that we can live with the Italians,” said Ozil, who pointed to Germany’s 4-1 win over Italy in a friendly on March 19 in Munich.

“We showed that we can beat Italy. The most important thing is to focus on ourselves, to play our game. We have the potential to beat any team,” Ozil said.

EURO 2016: Conte demands everything from Italy against Germany

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 27:  Antonio Conte head coach of Italy celebrates his team's 2-0 win with his team players and staffs after the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Italy and Spain at Stade de France on June 27, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
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BORDEAUX, France (AP) Italy coach Antonio Conte has called on his players to do something “super-extraordinary” by beating Germany in the quarterfinals of the European Championship on Saturday.

Italy arrived in France with an aging team that had faced plenty of criticism back home. But it won Group E with a match to spare and beat two-time defending champion Spain 2-0 in the round of 16.

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Next up is fierce foe Germany, which is seeking to add the European Championship crown to the World Cup it won in Brazil two years ago.

“At the beginning we had little credibility among everyone, both in the media at home and also abroad,” Conte said Friday. “Everyone knew that it’s a dark moment for Italian football talent. But I think we are showing that with hard work, with organization, with 23 great lads who work hard, who sacrifice themselves, we are trying to overcome obstacles that at the beginning seemed insurmountable.

“Now we have someone in front of us who is at a really high level … against Spain we did something extraordinary, tomorrow we need to do something super extraordinary because it will be a really tough test. But these are the matches which make you feel great.”

Germany has never beaten Italy in a competitive match, with the Azzurri winning semifinals in 2006 – on their way to the World Cup triumph – and at Euro 2012.

[ MORE: Wales shock Belgium | Portugal down Poland on PKs ]

However, Germany humiliated Italy 4-1 in a friendly in Munich in March.

“They have grown a lot from that match,” Conte said. “I think we have also grown a lot from that friendly. It was a friendly which taught us a lot of things.”

Italy will likely be without key midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who is a doubt with a thigh injury.

Conte is already missing midfielder Antonio Candreva because of injury, while Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo were ruled out before the start of the tournament.

“We’re not going to give anything away,” he said. “But we know that these are matches where you have to be 120 percent to play in them because they’re very, very physical matches, intense matches. Matches in which you don’t need to be almost fit – you need to be very fit.”

EURO 2016: Wales shock Belgium, advance to first-ever semifinal

LILLE, FRANCE - JULY 01:  Hal Robson-Kanu (C) of Wales celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 quarter final match between Wales and Belgium at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on July 1, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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After 58 years of major tournament-less football, Wales are through to the semifinals of EURO 2016, set to face off against Portugal for a place in the final, after coming from behind and knocking off Belgium’s golden generation in the quarterfinals, 3-1 Monday in Lille.

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Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes scored 25 minutes apart, either side of halftime, to cancel out Radja Nainggolan’s stunning opener and send the Dragons to the semifinals of a major tournament for the first time ever.

The goal-line scramble of all goal-line scrambles saw Belgium denied not once, not twice, but three times in a matter of seconds in the 7th minute. Three goal-line clearances= saw chance after chance after chance denied in quick succession and the score remain 0-0.

The Red Devils continued to pour numbers forward and threaten for an opener. In the 13th minute, it arrive in the form of a goal of the tournament candidate lashed into the back of the net by Nainggolan. As they say, that ball stayed hit.

Wales equalized right on the half-hour mark, as Williams, who was expected to miss the quarterfinal clash after injuring his should in the round of 16 triumph over Northern Ireland, headed home from Aaron Ramsey‘s out-swinging corner kick.

[ MORE: Portugal top Poland in PKs, will face Wales in semis ]

Ramsey had himself quite a game, setting up Williams’ equalizer before doing the same for Robson-Kanu’s winner in the 55th minute. The cross from out wide was, of course, important to find Robson-Kanu at the penalty spot, but the turn in traffic to open the entire goalmouth was truly brilliant from a player currently without a club contract.

Vokes made it 3-1 with a simple header from Chris Gunter‘s cross, putting the result beyond doubt and sending all of Wales, from Cardiff to Wrexham, into ultimate party mode until the nerves set in ahead of Wednesday’s semifinal.

And they said Wales were a one-man team. Victory in the quarterfinals, all without a goal or assist from Gareth Bale.

Transfer rumor roundup: No new contract for Higuain — Chelsea, Arsenal linked

NAPLES, ITALY - FEBRUARY 07:  Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli celebrates the opening goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Carpi FC at Stadio San Paolo on February 7, 2016 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
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With the whale in a sea of tiny, insignificant fishes now landed — Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of course — the dominoes may now fall and the rest of the world’s players find a new home during this here summer transfer window.

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Gonzalo Higuain, who scored 36 goals in 35 Serie A games last season, will not sign a new contract with his current club, Napoli, giving life to rumors that the Argentine could make a move abroad this summer with just two years left on his current contract. Higuain’s agent, via Radio Marca in Spain:

“Gonzalo will not renew but he will respect the contract because he is a professional. There are at least four or five teams that can afford Higuain both in Spain and England and there is also PSG and Bayern Munich.”

The Premier League clubs most regularly linked to Higuain? Chelsea and Arsenal. Expect a fee in the neighborhood of 60 or $70 million to land the 28-year-old.

Manchester United’s new away jersey is for sale on the club’s official website, and would you look at that, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one of many Man United players whose names you can order on the back. Just one problem: Mkhitaryan hasn’t yet been announced as a United player, though plenty of speculation and reports have linked them to the 27-year-old Borussia Dortmund star this summer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO 2016 coverage ]

Scooped by their own website? We’ll see, as the Armenian playmaker could follow in the footsteps of Zlatan as signing for Jose Mourinho’s United in the summer of 2016.

Just as Manchester City fans should probably expect an influx of players with La Liga and/or Bundesliga ties this summer, Anfield should also see its fair share of rising stars from Germany’s top division as Jurgen Klopp operates in his first summer window at Liverpool boss. Up next from the Bundesliga, following Joel Matip and Loris Karius, is reportedly Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud.

20 years young, Dahoud made 32 league appearances for Gladbach last season, which means the Syrian-born German youth international is the apple of many a club’s eye this summer. According to the Guardian, Klopp is prepared to pay $33 million to land Dahoud, which could be entirely too much for Gladbach to turn down, or any other club to match.