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Make Safety Your Soccer Goal

Soccer is one of the most popular team sports in the country. But it's a sport with a hidden danger, one that most parents don't know about. CBS Consumer Correspondent Herb Weisbaum reports on this serious safety problem.


Soccer moms and dads be aware: When your kids go out to play soccer, you might worry about skinned knees or sprained ankles. What you probably don't know is that around the country at least 25 people, most of them children, have been killed by falling soccer goals. And most of these accidents don't happen during the game.

The game is fast, full of surprises and growing in popularity. But because soccer is usually played on fields used for other sports, most soccer goals are portable so they can moved when the game is over. But when they're not properly anchored to the ground, these moveable goals can be deadly.

Six years ago, Kerry Smith's son Daniel was in a Humble, Texas, park playing with friends when his foot became tangled in the net of a soccer goal.

When he tried to pull free, the goal tipped over and the heavy metal crossbar landed on his forehead.

He was unconscious, with blood coming out of his ear and his nose and gasping for breath. Daniel was flown to a trauma center in Houston but died just days short of his 11th birthday.

How could such a big piece of equipment fall so easily?

After the accident, Daniel's mother made a home video showing how heavy the goal was and how it could be tipped with little effort. It was 400 to 500 pounds and not at all stable.

The goal that killed Daniel was homemade for a local soccer association. But commercially built goals can also be top-heavy and easily tipped, even by a child.

And accidents involving these goals are not new. Sixteen years ago, when Mike Kroeplin was in high school, he tried to chin himself on a soccer goal not realizing how top-heavy it was. It came down on him, fracturing his skull and leaving him with a scar from ear to ear.

"This scar here is [from] the hooks that hold the netting," says Kroeplin. "The doctor said when it hit I must have turned this way and the hook just missed taking my eye out."

Though rare, these two accidents are not unique.

"Now that we know about it, it is absolutely crucial that every soccer goal is firmly anchored to the ground," says Ann Brown, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 1995, the safety commission and the soccer goal industry developed standards requiring heavy, moveable soccer goals to be anchored into the ground to prevent them from tipping over.

And yet today, more than four years later, it's easy to find unanchored goals in playgrounds and parks nationwide. And because of this, these preventable tip-over accidents keep happening.

When Safety Is The Goalsize>

  • The only way to be sure that a goal is safe is to examine it.
  • If it's a portable goal, there should be obvious anchors driven into the ground.
  • Find out who's responsible for the field and insist anchors be installed.
  • Don't let your kids play there until they are.
  • Make sure your kids know to never climb on or play on a goal.

Last year, Mark Miller was an athletic 10-year-old, attending soccer practice in Oconomowoc, Wis. Today, he struggles to overcome the near-total paralysis he suffered when a soccer goal being moved by some of his teammates fell over and crashed into the back of his head, breaking his neck.

"He never saw the goal come down, so he never knew what happened," says his mother, Laurie Miller. "He was running a drill at the time and didn't even know what the kids behind him were doing."

Today Mark requires constant care and uses a ventilator to breathe.

"We had no idea," says Bob Miller, Mark's father. "We live on a farm. This is supposed to be dangerous. We got a pond down here. That's supposed to be dangerous. Nothing ever happened around here and we take him to soccer practice and something like this happens."

Anchoring soccer goals is not difficult or expensive. There are a number of ways to secure them. With anchors that screw into the ground, the goal can still be moved if needed. And while eliminating the danger is easy, getting the word out is a whole lot tougher. And it's become an obsession for Kerry Smith.

"It's gotta be done," says Smith. "Somebody has to do this." She just launched a Web site devoted to the subject in her son's memory. "It's what Daniel would want me to do," she adds.

The most recent death happened last month in Michigan. This time the victim was an 8-year-old boy. That brings the official death toll to 25 but there are other cases that have never made the list.

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