The Law of the Game states that a goal can be scored with the head. When a team gets a free kick or corner kick, they usually aim for their tallest players so that the player can head it into the net.
Soccer players make heading the ball look easy until you try it and discover it doesn’t feel as rosy as it looks. When players cross the ball from a corner or a free kick into the penalty area, the ball usually comes at a great speed.
Looking at the speed of the ball, you don’t need a magician to tell you that it will hurt on impact. Well, professional soccer players have learned a few tricks on how to head the ball to make it hurt less than it should.
Without these proper heading techniques. Soccer players would likely be running away from the ball once it is played rather than scampering to get their head on it.
Today, most teams have players that score more goals using their head than their legs. For example, Chelsea FC defender Antonio Rudiger has made 112 appearances for the club and scored 8 goals and 6 of those goals have been from heading.
Heading the ball is not only about scoring goals. Defenders that know how to head the ball properly will make better clearances and save their team from conceding costly goals.
It is not surprising that some teams are now adding heading to their training drills. We are going to discuss all those drills and skills that can help you to head a soccer ball without getting hurt. Keep reading to find out.
- Why does it hurt to head a soccer ball?
- How to head a soccer ball without it hurting?
Why does it hurt to head a soccer ball?
There is a growing concern on the safety of heading the ball—and many studies say it is a bad idea. In training, soccer players usually head slow-moving balls repeatedly but during a competitive game, they usually head balls with more impact.
It is estimated that soccer players head the ball about 6 to 12 times during a game. There are a number of reasons that can make a soccer ball hurt on impact and they include;
1. You are not prepared for the ball
A ball will hurt if it hits your head accidentally—likewise, every other thing will hurt if you are not ready to receive it. To head a ball without it hurting, you need to prepare for it by keeping your eyes on the ball and tightening your neck muscles.
When your neck muscles are not stiffened enough and the ball hits your head at a high speed, it may cause your head to snap in the opposite direction and your neck will feel the impact too. The snapping motion may cause dislocation on your neck.
2. The speed of the ball
Some soccer players have been recorded to have really fast shots. One of the fastest on record is the 210 km/hr shot fired by Ronny Heberson.
The faster the shot, the more it will hurt when you head the ball. For example, a lob into the penalty area traveling at 100 km/h will hurt less than a shot traveling at 190 km/hr if you are to head the two.
3. The nature of the ball
FIFA has its official soccer balls and regulations on the specifications and must-have features for soccer balls used for competitive games. However, FIFA-approved balls are usually very expensive.
In informal settings, soccer players usually resort to the less expensive variant of the soccer ball which is also harder than the official balls. The harder the soccer ball, the more likely it will hurt when you head it—especially when it is at a high speed.
When organizing heading drills for children between eight and nine years it is always advisable to use the softest version of the soccer ball. The impact will be less harsh on them and diminish their chances of getting a concussion.
4. You are too young to head the ball
Soccer drills are usually structured to match the age of the soccer players. At a younger age, the head of the soccer player may not be developed enough to handle an impact to the head and an impact can have severe consequences on the health of the soccer player.
That is why it is advised that you start heading sessions with children only when they are old enough (eight or nine years) to handle the impact. Even at this age, you have to keep the duration of the session short and keep the speed of the ball low.
5. Heading the ball with the wrong part of the head
The forehead is the thickest part of the skull and definitely the best place to use for heading the ball. The forehead can protect you from developing a concussion.
Apart from offering protection when you head the ball, the use of the forehead allows you to generate maximum power and control of the ball which is crucial when you are trying to score a goal.
How to head a soccer ball without it hurting?
When it comes to heading the ball without it hurting, preparation is key. The better prepared you are, the more likely you will be able to overcome the instances that make heading painful.
Come to think of it, if heading the ball really hurts, soccer players will not be willing to do it so many times in a match. So, there must be a way of heading the ball without it hurting.
In almost all the instances where a soccer player has been knocked unconscious, it is because the ball hit them wrongly. For example, a defender may be attempting to clear the ball off his or her lines and the ball ends up hitting the player on the head.
Even though the right technique will not remove the pain entirely, it will definitely lower your chance of getting injured. Well, sometimes your head is the only part of your body that can reach the ball or your best chance to outcompete your opponent.
Will you shy away from it because of the possible pain? Absolutely not! The steps below will guide you on how to properly head the ball without it hurting to the point of causing injuries.
Step 1: Keep your eyes on the ball
Keeping your eyes on the ball is the first step to executing a good painless heading. Many soccer players close their eyes and hope the ball hits them instead of focusing on the ball to decide where exactly they want their heads to make contact with the ball.
At the point of contact, it may be impossible to still keep the eyes open because your human reflexes will force the eyes shut. However, by this time you should have made your decision if you kept your eyes open from the beginning.
It is hard to judge the speed of the ball and condition your body properly if your eyes are closed.
Step 2: Position your body
Positioning your body properly helps you to meet the ball with equal opposite force thereby nullifying any impact it would have had on your body. The force you will use to counter that of the ball will come from your legs all the way up to your neck.
Your legs should be a few inches apart (with one leg in front of the other) to give you better balance. Arch your knees like a runner about to take off which helps you to maintain balance if you will have to jump to head the ball.
Lean backward in readiness to launch at the ball with all the force generated from your feet all the way up. Stiffen your neck muscles to keep your head steady so that the ball doesn’t cause your head to snap backward on impact.
Step 3: Head the ball with your forehead
Making contact with the ball using the right part of the head is important. The center of the forehead is the most rigid part of the skull and the area you will likely experience less pain.
If you make contact with the ball using the top of your head or your nose, it will definitely hurt or cause you to bleed. In addition to that, it is harder to direct the ball to where you want it to go if you use any other part of the head apart from the forehead.
Step 4: Hit the ball
Always remember that you have to hit the ball rather than let the ball hit you. Also, pay attention to where you hit the ball because that will determine which direction it will go.
Ideally, you should aim to hit the middle of the ball. In attacking heading, the soccer player will aim to hit the top of the ball which forces the ball to move downward making it harder for the goalkeeper to catch the ball.
In the defensive heading, you want to give the ball as much elevation as possible to enable it to go far and wide. This is because you don’t want to head the ball straight into the path of your opponent.
Also, giving the ball good elevation gives the defenders enough time to reorganize and counter the attack of the opposing team. During a defensive header, the soccer player must aim to hit the ball at the bottom which will push it upward.
If you are too afraid of heading the ball, that is when you will get hurt because the ball will end up hitting you rather than the other way around.
The key to not getting hurt in soccer is doing everything right and that includes proper positioning of the body and using the center of the forehead to head the ball.
If you are going to attempt heading the ball, it is always important to go all out for it. Also, talking to teammates before taking a leap is important because we have seen a lot of team members colliding heads while attempting to head the ball because of a lack of proper communication.
There are different types of heading techniques and they usually have to deal with where you hit the ball and how you hit it. You need to perfect all the different heading techniques to know when to apply each one of them.
In 99% of the cases, you will come out fine when you hit the ball rather than letting the ball hit you.
If you are scared of heading the ball because you may get hurt you may end up hurting your team by either failing to score an important goal or failing to clear your lines properly and giving the opponent the opportunity to strike.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!