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New Rules Ban Heading For Youth Soccer Players

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It affects tens of thousands of kids every year--young soccer players sidelined with dangerous concussions. Now U.S. Soccer is stepping up, enacting stringent new regulations that will change how kids play the game.

Meghan McCorkell explains.

The new rules are designed to raise awareness of concussions that can have serious implications for children.

Mary Johnson, 16, is a rising star on the Hammond High School soccer team, making First Team All-County as a sophomore. But it was a play in the first scrimmage of junior year that had her off the field for weeks.

"I remember hitting the ground, and then I remember holding my head, being in a lot of pain," said Johnson.

Johnson was diagnosed with a concussion. Her recovery took six weeks.

"She was off balance. She was very dizzy, fatigue. She would come home midday. She'd call me from school at 11 o'clock and say, 'I've got to come home,' and she'd go right to sleep," her mother, Kathy Johnson, said.

Now, U.S. Soccer is trying to cut down on the numbers of youth concussions. The organization has banned heading the ball for players under ten and ordered coaches to limit heading for kids 10 to 13 years old.

"Kids that are at a younger age don't have enough muscles to head these balls," said neurologist Dr. Kevin Crutchfield.

Dr. Crutchfield agrees with the new rules, saying without proper technique, heading can be dangerous.

"I think it's a good idea. I think the younger kids don't really need to be heading the ball, per se," he said.

A recent study found that heading the ball is responsible for causing the highest number of concussions in both male and female soccer players.

As for Mary Johnson, she's back on the field--with a new accessory--a concussion headband.

"It pretty much absorbs any impact when you hit your head," she said.

An added layer of protection that has her back doing the sport she loves.

U.S. Soccer is also changing substitution rules to encourage more kids to get evaluated for concussions.

The new rules are the result of a lawsuit filed by parents who argued U.S. Soccer is not doing enough to protect young players.

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