Should Soccer Goalkeepers Wear Helmets?
Received an email from a colleague asking my opinion on her 9 year-old son wearing a helmet when playing goalkeeper in soccer.
When it comes to soccer helmets and preventing concussions, my usual response is that there is inadequate science to support risk reduction. I am also concerned that some players wearing a helmet may be over aggressive, or that opponents may target a player wearing a helmet.
However, these thoughts are mostly for field players.
When it comes to goalkeepers, there are some similar and yet different thoughts.
Decent evidence that soft helmet use could reduce lacerations, bruising, and potentially skull fractures that may result from the diving actions or contact with the goalposts.
However, we do not have sufficient evidence documenting helmet use can lead to less rotational injury to the brain after close-range impact.
Would still be cautious about goalkeepers feeling a false sense of over-confidence using helmets and then putting their heads in risky positions.
Helmet or not, would strongly recommend the following head injury risk reduction techniques for goalkeepers:
- Do recommend going feet first rather than head first into a challenged ground ball situation.
- Raising elbows and knees to protect the head when in challenge situations can also be protective, as long as not done with intent to harm another player.
- Keeping the hands up near the face while in the ready position to anticipate a shot allows quicker reaction of hands protecting the head.
- Using a fist to punch the ball rather than attempt to make a catch in traffic may reduce the risk of either direct contact with other players or limit chance of feet being taken out from below leading to uncontrolled head impact with the ground.
- Officials should enforce a reasonable protective halo distance around diving goalkeepers trying to collect balls to reduce risk of kicks or other direct blows to the head.
If selecting a helmet, I do recommend finding one that doesn't adversely affect peripheral vision and also one that properly fits and continues to fit with use. A recent study indicated that improper football helmet fit may lead to more complicated concussion outcomes. Changes in liner, sweat pattern, and hairstyle among other things were found to affect helmet fit. While study was done in football, do think it would apply to helmet use of all types.