Soccer headgear a ‘no-brainer’ in Basalt | AspenTimes.com
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Soccer headgear a ‘no-brainer’ in Basalt

Jon Maletz
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
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The soccer game between Aspen and Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale this fall weighed on Chris Woods.In the aftermath of a collision between Aspen’s Henry Cote and CRMS’s Chris Sellers – one that sent both to the hospital with concussio ns – Woods, head coach of Basalt’s girls team, said he felt personally responsible for the safety of his players.After much research and personal reflection, Woods recently made the decision to require Full90 headgear for his players during the upcoming season. The mandate is the first of its kind in the valley.”I always thought [headgear] was a good idea, but that incident reinforced the issue,” Woods said. “I decided I didn’t want any of my kids to be unnecessarily hurt.”

Woods combed through newspaper articles and other research. The data was clear, he said. A 1999-2000 study by Dr. J. Scott Delaney at McGill University in Montreal concluded that concussion rates in soccer are comparable to those in both football and hockey. The study also found that 60 percent of college-level soccer players reported symptoms of a concussion during the season. Athletes who suffer a concussion are four to six times more likely to suffer a second.A September report by the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that headgear greatly reduces the probability of injury. Full90 headgear cuts down the force of impact by more than 50 percent, said Jeff Skeen, founder of the San Diego-based company. “I saw some research that said 90 percent of boxers do experience brain trauma,” Woods said. “I can’t see how heading a soccer ball that flies 60 feet in the air would be any different. “It was obvious the kids could only benefit. It’s something that’s simple and inexpensive when you look at health care. “Woods initiated talks with Tim Killeen, Full90’s vice president of sales, who, in turn, sent two Premier model headguards for the Longhorns to try out. Woods decided to try the headguard – which weighs less than 2 ounces and is made of a combination of shock-absorbing foam, lycra and polypropylene – on for himself.The coach said his players, a few of whom had suffered concussions during previous seasons, were skeptical at first. Those opinions quickly dissipated.”I talked to the seniors and juniors before to have their input, and they were a little hesitant at the start,” Woods said. “I think they felt better because everyone had to wear one. It wasn’t an option.”

Three days into the 2006 season, Aspen girls soccer coach John Gillies said he hasn’t discussed the headgear issue with the administration. Gillies, who was on the sidelines when Cote and Sellers went down, said he would support a headgear initiative.”Anything that makes the girls feel more comfortable is a good thing,” he said. “There’s no point in having someone on the field who’s cautious of heading the ball. The protection will make it easier to concentrate on the game.”Athletic directors Carol Sams (Aspen) and Michael Green (Basalt) were not available for comment Thursday.Skeen was encouraged by the news during a telephone interview Thursday.”I can’t tell you how happy I am,” Skeen said. “The statistics show that, if there’s 20 girls on that team, [Woods’ decision] probably saved 10 girls from concussions.”Five years from now, you’ll drive by a soccer field and see the majority of people wearing headgear. In 10 or 15 years, people will say, ‘Can you believe there were idiots who played without head protection?'”

The American Society for Testing and Materials’ unanimous passing of the first-ever soccer headgear standard in November cleared a major hurdle, Skeen said. No longer would headgear skeptics have a basis for their position. Skeen, in an interview with The Aspen Times on Nov. 16, predicted that high schools would take a serious look at instituting headgear in the near future. Schools carry a degree of liability for participants because they own the fields and employ referees. “There are lots of schools across the country who want to do what’s right,” Skeen said.Woods said it was important for his team to set an example for the rest of the Western Slope Conference. He admitted guilt motivated his decision, adding that he would feel horrible if he delayed requiring headgear and one of his players went down with a head injury.The decision was a no-brainer, Woods said.”We’re lucky in a way that happened, and nothing more serious resulted,” Woods said of the collision at CRMS. “It was a big scare that made all the coaches sit back and think, ‘What can we do to avoid that?'” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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