N.Y. Youth Soccer Group Becomes First Association on Earth to Mandate Protective Headgear

By John Wawrow Associated Press – BUFFALO N.Y. - For the first time in the nation a New York regional youth soccer association will require the mandatory use of protective headguards affecting nearly 35000 players 14-years-old and younger.

The decision was reached by a vote of the New York State West Youth Soccer Association board which oversees more than 200 leagues and clubs from Syracuse to Buffalo and will go into effect next March.

"Our primary responsibility is to our players' health and safety the association's executive director Omer Doron said in a statement.

Doron who was traveling in California did not return a message left by The Associated Press on Thursday.

The decision was in part based on what the association cited as recent studies that found between 20 and 25 percent of all soccer injuries are head-related.

The required guard resembles an enlarged padded headband that leaves the top of a player's head exposed. The design pioneered by Full90 of San Diego Calif. allows players to head the ball but guards against blows to the sides of the head.

Full90 is believed to be the only manufacturer of soccer headguards in the world and its products cost between $24 and $30.

Several U.S. soccer associations have encouraged their players to wear protective headgear including California-South which has begun handing it out to all of its players. But none had previously voted for its mandatory use.

Last year MISL endorsed the use of protective headguards. And there are several players that have begun wearing them including U.S. national women's team veteran Joy Fawcett who wore it at the Athens Olympics and during last year's Women's World Cup.

FIFA soccer's world governing body has ruled Full90's headgear to be acceptable for competition.

The U.S. Soccer Federation takes a neutral stand on headguards.

Spokesman Jim Moorhouse said the federation is awaiting the completion of a five-year study that began in 2002 before determining whether to make any decision.

Among the federation's concerns is whether players wearing headguards take more risks and are more aggressive than those that do not.