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Soccer Goalposts Can Be Deadly Hazard

Another Needless Death

The April 22, 2003 death of a twelve-year old California boy after a heavy iron soccer goal at his San Jose middle school fell, striking his head and pinning him to the ground, was the second such death in a six month span. It appears that Luis Jimenez, a seventh grader at the J.W. Fair Middle School in East San Jose, was one of a group of boys trying to set the goal upright during recess to play a pickup soccer game, when it slipped from their hands and came back down, hitting the boy on the head. "There was blood everywhere," said one boy. As many as 400 students were having lunch in the vicinity, when the accident took place. Jimenez's death comes less than six months after the falling goalpost death of six-year old Zachary Tran in a Chicago suburb and highlights the continuing deadly hazard posed by soccer goalposts.

Many Goals Are Unsafe

There are between 325,000 and 600,000 soccer goals in the United States. Many are unsafe because they are unstable and either unanchored or not correctly anchored or counterbalanced. In addition, even properly secured goalposts pose an unnecessary danger to players, primarily goalies, because the vast majority are unpadded The American Journal of Sports Medicine reported in 1995 that, even though goalies comprise only six percent of soccer players, they suffer nineteen percent of all soccer injuries. When a player collides with the post of a heavy, stationary goal post, the player absorbs all of the impact of the collision.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research:

  • At least 34 fatalities and 51 major injuries nationwide during the period 1979 to 2008 have been linked to unanchored or portable soccer goals, four in 1990 alone.

  • An estimated 120 people per year were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries stemming from soccer goal posts during the period 1989 to 1993.

  • The serious injuries and deaths have been the result of blunt force trauma to the head, neck, chest and limbs.

  • Many of the serious injuries or deaths occurred when the soccer goal tipped over onto the victim. In one case, a nine year old was killed when a gust of wind tipped over the goal. In another case, a nineteen-year old goalie suffered stress fractures to both legs when a soccer goal blew down on top of her.

  • Most of the goals involved in the tip over accidents were of the homemade variety, fabricated by high school shop classes, custodial staff or local welders, not professionally manufactured. Such homemade goals are often very heavy and unstable.

  • Padded goal posts reduce significantly the number and severity of injuries, and are especially effective in reducing injuries to the head. Impact laboratory testing by the Institute For Preventive Sports Medicine>> do not hot link has shown that the force of impact is reduced between thirty-one and sixty-three percent by protective goal post padding.

Safety Recommendations

  • The CPSC recommends that all movable soccer goals be anchored firmly in place at all times. The Commission advises, "If the goals aren't anchored, kids shouldn't play."

  • In 1999, the CPSC required that all soccer goalposts have caution labels, such as "Warning: always anchor soccer goal. Unanchored goal can fall over causing injury or death."

  • The proper techniques for doing so are outlined in a 1995 pamphlet entitled, "Guidelines For Movable Soccer Goal Safety."

  • In 1994, the Committee For Security Matters And Fair Play of FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, issued mandatory instructions to all associations to securely anchor goals to the ground.

  • Never let anyone hang on the crossbars of soccer goalposts.

  • Make sure goalposts are padded. MomsTeam expert, Dr. David Janda has developed a goal post padding system consisting of one half-inch thick pads of vinyl-skinned synthetic foam, fastened by Velcro straps. In 471 games on fields equipped with padded posts, there were seven major collisions between a goalie and a padded post, but no injuries!

Is your town, club or league doing everything it can to make soccer fields safe? Do you have additional suggestions? Please send an e-mail to: media@youthsportsparents.com

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