More than 200,000 children annually are injured badly enough while playing soccer to be taken to a doctor or hospital. Many of these injuries involve soccer goals, but such incidents generally do not arise from actually playing the game. Most of the soccer goals in use for children’s soccer are portable or semi-permanent, i.e., they are designed to be removed after use, for mowing, etc. Some incidents happen when the goal is being moved, but most occur when kids are using them as a jungle gym or monkey bars, either during a game or practice or when the goals are unattended. Countless injuries and 34 deaths involving soccer goals have occurred since 1979.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and ASTM International (formerly American Standards for Testing and Materials) both advocate a tip-over resistance of 200 pounds for soccer goals – that is the equivalent of two 12-year-olds swinging on them. This standard is not normally statutory but it is the yardstick against which liability suits probably will be measured. Much more importantly, it is a way to keep kids safe.
The first component in preventing soccer goal related injuries is adequate anchoring of portable and semipermanent goals – whenever they are in place, regardless of their size and height. They should be secure from wind, collision by players, and horseplay.
There are several means of properly anchoring soccer goals. The number and type of anchors used depends on factors such as soil type, goal weight, and goal design. Examples include:
Using only goals that are well designed, solidly built, and properly maintained will reduce the potential for accidental injury. Net pegs (the tapered, metal stakes used to secure the net) should never be used to anchor the soccer goal itself – they are inadequate for the task.
A critical corollary of anchoring is monitoring to ensure that the anchors are properly set.
The second component in preventing soccer goal related injuries is supervision and education – for stored goals, unsupervised goals, and supervised goals. Most injuries involving soccer goals have occurred when the children playing on or near them were not being actively supervised. Since children do not usually consider potential harm before acting constant, deliberate supervision is needed, as is focused training of coaches, parents, and children.
The third part of preventing soccer goal related injuries is proper storage when not in use. Goals left on the playing field should receive daily monitoring to ensure that they cannot be overturned by unsupervised play. Goals that are removed from the playing field should be secured so that they cannot wiggle, tip, or fall.
Remember, kids cannot be allowed to assist in the moving or storage of soccer goals. Such activities should be done when children are not present if at all possible.
Climbing on goals and hanging from the crosspiece are common causes of needless injury that could be significantly reduced by observing the tips in the three sections above. In addition, all moveable goals should have warning labels affixed to them.
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Anchoring soccer goals is important – as is proper storage and monitoring of both. Be diligent to inform all staff, volunteers, members, parents, and players of these safety issues. Ensure that staff members and coaches fully understand their roles in educating and supervising the children, anchoring and monitoring active goals, and securing inactive goals. Enlist the parents’ assistance in supervising their children during practice and games, especially those children who are not actively playing. The coach’s eyes understandably are largely on those who are actively participating.