J Sports Sci Med. 2023 Sep 1;22(3):591-596. doi: 10.52082/jssm.2023.591. eCollection 2023 Sep.
Since the implementation of the US Soccer heading guidelines released in 2015, little to no research on ball-head impact exposure in the United States youth soccer population has been conducted. The purpose was to compare ball-head impact exposure across sex and age in youth soccer players over a weekend tournament. Ten male and female games for each age group (Under-12 [U12], U13, and U14) were video recorded at a weekend tournament for a total of 60 games. Ball-head impact exposure for each game was then coded following a review of each recording. Male players were 2.8 times more likely to have ball-head impacts than female players, (p < 0.001) particularly in the U14 age group when compared to the U12 age group (p = 0.012). Overall 92.4% of players experienced 0-1 ball-head impacts per game with the remaining players experiencing 2+ ball-head impacts per game. Ball-head impact exposure levels are low in the youth players. Most youth soccer players do not head the soccer ball during match play and those that did, only headed the ball on average once per game. Overall, the difference in ball-head impact exposure per player was less than 1 between all the groups, which may have no clinical meaning.