A Sudden Squall
One cold, raw and blustery late autumn afternoon a few years back, I was running a soccer practice for a group of nine and ten year olds. A game was being played on an adjacent field. Suddenly, a snow squall struck. A gust of wind sent one of the goals crashing to the ground. We all looked to see what caused the loud noise and were shocked when we saw what had happened. Fortunately, no one was injured. But, to this day, I still remember the sound of that goal toppling over and I shudder each time I think what might have happened had it fallen over on a child.
Many Goals Are Unsafe
There are between 450,000 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.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research:
- At least 34 fatalities between 1979 and 2008 have been linked to unanchored, portable or movable soccer goals; another 51 have suffered catastrophic or serious injuries.
- 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.
- In their current design, soccer goals can weigh up to 400 pounds and are top-heavy because the bars are made of metal. While anchoring unsafe goals goes a long way to prevent incidents, the ultimate answer is to revamp soccer goals, using lighter materials and tip-resistant design. A new ASTM standard for tip-resistant soccer goal (F2673-08) has recently been released and can be found at astm.org. One such design that meets this standard is described here: New Stable Goal Design.
- The CPSC recommends that all movable soccer goals be anchored firmly in place at all times. The proper techniques for doing so are outlined in a 1995 pamphlet entitled, "Guidelines For Movable Soccer Goal Safety."
- In 1995, 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.
- Read Consumer Product Safety Commission Guidelines for Movable Soccer Goal Safety
- Keep soccer goals supervised and anchored.
- Never permit hanging or climbing on a soccer goal.
- Always stand to the rear or side of the goal when moving it - NEVER to the front
- Stabilize the goal as best suits the playing surface, but in a manner that does not create other hazards to players.
- Develop and follow a plan for periodic inspection and maintenance (e.g., dry rot, joints hooks)
- Advise all field maintenance persons to re-anchor the goal if moved for mowing the grass or other purposes.
- Remove goals from field no longer in use for the soccer program as the season progresses.
- Secure goals well from unauthorized access when stored.
- Educate and remind all players and adult supervisors about the past tragedies of soccer goal fatalities.
Is your town, club or league following these mandates?
Sources: Consumer Product Safety Commission; National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research; K & K Insurance Group, Inc., Fort Wayne, IN