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Study finds that padded goalposts can prevent soccer injuries

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 injuries.

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.

Copyright 2001 The Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine. All rights reserved.