Use of a padded goal post could prevent fatalities in soccer, according to a
study performed at the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine in Ann Arbor,
Michigan. The study, which will appear in the May issue of the American
Journal of Sports Medicine, found that using protective padding on goal
posts significantly reduced injuries from impacts with the posts.
Over a 13 year time period, at least 18 individuals have died from impact
with goal posts, according to the Consumer Safety Commission. Many others have
sustained serious head and spinal cord injuries. About 650,000 soccer injuries
required emergency room or hospital admission between 1989 and 1992.
"The area in and around the goal post is the most dangerous for serious
injury," said David H. Janda, M.D., Director of the Institute and principal
investigator in the study. Almost one out of five soccer injuries occur to the
goal keeper even though he or she comprises only one of 16 players on a soccer
team. Some safety advocates have suggested use of movable goal posts to prevent
impact injuries. However, several children died or were seriously injured when
unsecured goal posts fell on top of them. "A better alternative is a stationary
or secured movable goal post with padding," said Dr. Janda.
Between 1991 and 1993, the institute conducted laboratory and field studies
of padding around stationary posts. The laboratory test found that padding
reduced the force of impact with goal posts between 31 percent (vertical
impacts) and 63 percent (horizontal impacts). The Institute tested 11 types of
goal post pads using a 16 foot long crash sled similar to those used in the
automotive industry to assess the effect of impact on humans. The device
simulated impact with a goal post.
In the field phase of the study, padded goal posts were used in 471 soccer
games played by Ann Arbor and Saline, Michigan youth, teen and adult soccer
leagues. Field supervisors documented collisions with the goal posts, rebounds
of the ball upon impact with th goal post and reaction of the players, coaches,
fans and referees.
Seven collisions occured with no injuries recorded during the entire three
year study period. In addition to documenting the number of injuries, the field
supervisors who monitored the field also documented the reactions of officials,
players, coaches and spectators. "All of these groups had no criticisms of the
posts, and in fact, did not realize that the posts had any type of padding,"
said Dr. Janda. "The rebound of the ball off the post also did not appear to be
affected by the padding."
Dr. Janda noted that the use of padding systems on stationary goal posts in
soccer has an effect similar to that of break-away bases used in softball and
baseball. Both reduce injuries without altering the flow or enjoyment of the
game with the added benefit that they reduce health costs associated with the
Co-researchers were Robert Hensinger, M.D., Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery
Division, University of Michigan; Cynthia Bir, M.S., R.N., the Institute for
Preventative Sports Medicine and Catherine McAuley Health Systems; Bart Wild,
the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine; and Steve Olson, Department of
Recreational Sports, University of Michigan.