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Soccer Star Takes Stance On Helmets

Soccer Star Takes Stance On HelmetsA proposal by a Massachusetts lawmaker to require all soccer players in the state to wear helmets during games has Tufts senior Ariel Samuelson speaking out.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.02.06] Tufts senior Ariel Samuelson, captain of the women’s soccer team, has seen her teammates sustain head injuries on the field. But she and one Massachusetts lawmaker are butting heads over a recent proposal to require soccer players to wear helmets during games. The measure, Samuelson says, is both drastic and unnecessary and would almost certainly change the nature of the game she loves to play.

“Soccer players take head injuries seriously,” the biology and biomedical engineering major wrote in a recent full-page opinion piece in The BostonGlobe magazine. “Still, having to pull on a helmet before taking the field would spoil the game.”

Related Coverage:

Samuelson Makes Tufts Women's Soccer History

Samuelson, who plans to attend medical school next year, sees some serious downfalls to passing a law like the one proposed by state Representative Deborah Blumer (D- Framingham), which would require Bay State soccer players, up to and including college level, to wear helmets.

The most obvious issue, according to the former Tufts Women’s Soccer team captain, is that for soccer players, the head replaces the hands. Requiring helmets, she explained, “would change the game.”

“Any ball in the air that would be caught in other sports is instead headed to … [a player’s] feet, headed to a teammate, or headed into the goal,” she wrote. “Heading is a precise technique, and having to wear a helmet would make it nearly impossible to do it correctly.”

Passing a helmet law would have “multiple unintended consequences,” as well, Samuelson pointed out.

“Serious soccer players at the college level would ignore Massachusetts schools and instead go out of state, diminishing the level of soccer played here,” she wrote. “Schools like Tufts, Amherst and Williams would no longer be able to battle toward the NCAA Division III championship.”

According to Samuelson, because Massachusetts would be the only state to have such a law, high school players would suffer, too.

“Massachusetts high school players would be at a disadvantage when trying to play at the college level,” Samuelson wrote. “Participants here would not develop the heading skills to compete with players from other states and would likely be less desirable to college coaches who are recruiting.”

While supporters of the proposal are interested in protecting young people’s developing brains from serious neurological damage, Samuelson suggested another solution.

“A better alternative would be to prohibit heading until players have reached the age at which their brains have developed to a point less susceptible to irreversible injury,” Samuelson wrote. “Sometimes, safety measures can be too radical. Soccer, with its existing rules, became the world's most popular sport, and it shouldn't be tampered with by well-intentioned, if misguided, Massachusetts lawmakers.”



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