New WYSL Rules Effective Spring 2016 Relating to Heading and Concussion Management
The WYSL has adopted new rules to be effective for the spring 2016 season to implement certain of the US Soccer Guidelines with respect to heading and injuries to the head, including those adopted as requirements by US Club Soccer in January and earlier this week. Referees should become familiar with these new rules, which are essentially similar to those adopted by other leagues in the area. Following is a summary of the key rule changes that referees should know:
Deliberate heading will be prohibited in all divisions U11 and younger. When a player playing in one of these divisions deliberately heads the ball in a game, the referee should stop play and award an indirect free kick to the opposing team from the spot where the heading took place. If the deliberate header occurs within the goal area (penalty area in U8 divisions), the indirect free kick should be taken on the goal area line (penalty area line in U8 divisions) parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred. Referees should enforce these rules by age group division and should not assess the age of individual players on the field.
GAME MANAGEMENT WITH RESPECT TO HEAD INJURIES
Referees will be required to immediately stop the game if they observe or otherwise become aware of a forceful bump, blow or jolt to a player’s head or a hit to the body that results in rapid movement of the head or they become aware that a player is complaining about or is showing signs or reporting symptoms consistent with having suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury. If a player’s coach becomes aware of any of these circumstances and the referee does not promptly stop the game, the coach should attempt to get the referee’s attention (without violating League rules or the Laws of the Game) and convey this information. While the new rules give referees discretion to make decisions with respect to these matters, referees are urged to err on the side of caution and player safety.
If the referee or a player’s coach becomes aware that a player is complaining about or is showing signs or reporting symptoms consistent with having suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury, that player must be removed from the game. Unless a health care professional, as defined in the rules (and not any doctor), is onsite and determines that the player did not suffer a concussion or other traumatic brain injury and clears the player to resume play on a form to be prescribed by the League, any player so removed shall not return to play in that game.
The referee should (x) make a note on both the line-up card and the referee’s report that any player so removed is suspected of having sustained a head injury (noting the input of any onsite health care professional conveyed to the referee), and (y) retain that player’s pass and send it to the League office no later than the next business day following the day of the game.
Referees are receiving orientation and training with respect to these new rules and applicable concussion protocols. Referees should watch USSF's concussions in soccer overview video. Information concerning concussion signs and symptoms is available on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.