Heading In The Right Direction


Soccer referees learn principles of the Recognize to Recover (R2R) campaign in an effort to produce safe play and limit injuries in younger players.

Alabama soccer referees are participants in the Recognize to Recover (R2R) campaign, U.S. Soccer’s comprehensive player health and safety program. During the referee entry classes and annual recertification classes, Alabama referees learn the R2R information.

A key component of the program is concussion prevention, particularly among younger players. Players ages 11 and under are not permitted to intentionally head the ball at all during play. If a player intentionally heads the ball, the referee will stop play and award an Indirect Free Kick (IDK) to the opposing team. Unintentional heading is not punished, and play is not stopped.

Although this is not in the referee’s realm of responsibility, players in the U12 and U13 age groups are limited in the total number of minutes they may practice heading during the week. However, heading is permitted during game situations.

Referees are instructed to stop play immediately if a player suffers a significant blow to the head and team officials will be called onto the field. In leagues in which there are limited substitutions allowed per game, substituting a player who has suffered a head injury will not count against the team. An injured player will not be allowed to return to action until cleared by medical personnel.

Following is the new modified law:

III. Heading:

ASA has eliminated heading for players U11 and younger. This directive is to protect players 10 years old and younger regardless of what age group they are playing in. A purposeful header by these players shall result in an indirect free kick awarded to the opponent at the spot of the infraction. This mandate is for all ASA affiliated activities, including but not limited to, ASA affiliated member organization league play, practices and tournaments. ASA recommends limiting the amount of heading in practice for players in U12 and U13 programs to a maximum of 30 minutes per week with no more than 15-20 headers per player, per week. (No limit on heading in games.) In addition, ASA recommends that all coaches be instructed to teach and emphasize the importance of proper techniques for heading the ball.

The R2R program is a key program to promote the safety of all players.Key findings on evaluating and managing concussions emphasize the joint responsibility of referees, coaches, parents, and medical staff to know the signs and symptoms of concussion.


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Pat Dixon

To learn more about becoming a soccer referee in Alabama, go online to www.alasoccerref.com.

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