Published: June 1, 2016 By

soccer player

As a defender in her youth soccer days, Scout Watson (Comm’18) knew concussions all too well –– she had four. Now a goalkeeper for CU women’s soccer, she’s embraced an experiment to reduce the odds other players will suffer the same fate. 

Buffs head coach Danny Sanchez recently came up with a plan to eliminate most of the long balls launched by goalkeepers that tempt field players to leap up and direct them with their heads. 

For example, if Watson fields the ball, she’s no longer supposed to kick it high and deep to clear her end. Instead, she throws it out to a teammate from below waist-level. 

“It was a lot different,” Watson said of the change, which was implemented in April spring games against Air Force and Northern Colorado. “I feel like it really works. … A lot of balls on the ground made the game go faster. The flow was smoother versus long balls being more choppy.” 

The new protocol, which eliminates as many as 40 to 50 long balls per game, according to Sanchez, was also in effect for a round-robin with Denver and Colorado College. 

“They jumped on board,” Sanchez said of his fellow Front Range coaches. 

As a national movement to minimize concussions in football gains steam, leaders in other sports also have been reviewing ways to prevent head injuries. 

“The Colorado coaches, like all coaches, have a huge concern with player health, and for us to band together to take a look at a potential positive step in this regard is exciting,” Sanchez told CUBuffs. com in late March. “Spring practice games are a time for coaches and players alike to learn, and this is an important initiative for the group to do that.” 

Sanchez’s suggested rules were in effect for a few games this spring only. He said he’ll await results of surveys of players and coaches administered by Kathryn Hardin, a clinical associate professor and brain injury specialist at CU-Boulder, before deciding on next steps. 

“I think we’re a long ways from [changes at the NCAA level],” he said. “We’re looking at it, if they look back and say  [CU is] where it started, we wouldn’t be against that.” 

Photo by CU Athletics