In advance of the release of the latest contribution to U.S. Soccer’s Recognize to Recover program – a video addressing the awareness of concussions and proper treatment – U.S. Soccer Chief Medical Officer George Chiampas sat for a Q&A on the video and how it will further U.S. Soccer’s goals of promoting safe play and reducing injuries in soccer players of all ages.
R2R is a first-of-its-kind the program developed with the help of medical experts to provide coaches, players, parents and referees with information, guidance and additional educational materials to improve the prevention and management of injuries.
ussoccer.com: Why did U.S. Soccer create this video?
George Chiampas: “Recognize to Recover is a key part of U.S. Soccer’s vision of creating a culture of safety around the game. R2R’s goal is to become a destination for ‘best practices’ with regards to soccer safety in the United States for not only concussions, but all soccer injuries. We want to emphasize injury prevention and create a tremendous amount of awareness among players, coaches, parents and referees, with safety being an integral in all of that. A part of that is concussion injuries and we felt that one of the most significant ways to create broad awareness of this injury, and especially to touch upon all four of those stakeholders, is by creating an impactful video that touches upon all of those that this type of injury can impact. This video on concussions was one that was well thought out and produced with an attention to detail and with much input. We reached out to membership organizations, a medical advisory board and players and coaches, to truly try to cover all the touchpoints and make sure that this video is one that can resonate across the soccer community. That was the essential purpose of the video being created.”
ussoccer.com: How will the video be used as part of the R2R platform?
GC: “The video’s purpose, and our goal, is that all players that play the game of soccer – from the youth levels to our National Teams, our pro leagues, the NCAA, high school associations, and every player that touches the game, as well as coaches, referees and parents – watch this video so that the lessons explained will become a part of the soccer culture in the United States.
With that said, we also plan on having it as part of our coaching license courses and referee certification. We also plan to utilize it in other educational areas and platforms where we know the video will be watched and where it will have a positive impact. It’s meant to be an educational tool to create awareness so that the culture of safety in and around our game, which is our upmost priority, continues to grow.”
ussoccer.com: What are the most important aspects that you want people to come away with after watching the video?
GC: “The most important aspects are that we want players to make sure that they step forward fif they’re concerned that they potentially have a concussion. We want them to seek care. We know that is a hurdle, but we want to make sure that coaches and referees understand some of the impacts and the symptoms that concussions can have, and that they understand their responsibility with this injury. They are just as integral in ensuring that players are managed correctly, so they can return to play in an expedited and safe way, and so that they can continue to play the game they love for as long as possible. That’s of critical importance.
Finally, we want parents to also know and feel that U.S. Soccer, as the national governing body of our sport, has safety, especially with this injury, as a top priority. The most important thing is that it’s one video that all of the stakeholders are watching. There’s not multiple or varying messages that parents or coaches are watching, it’s a message that has been created and delivered to all of those stakeholders.
ussoccer.com: What has been done to make sure the video is seen by as many players, parents, coaches and referees?
GC: “In addition to disseminating through our U.S. Soccer Communications channels, we will rely on our membership organizations, our state associations, clubs across the United States, and the Development Academy to share this video so that it can be viewed by the maximum amount players, parents, coaches and referees. Through our cooperation and collaboration in the build of this video, as well as the implementation of the Recognize to Recover program, we will continue to network among all of those for whom it will be impactful to make sure they watch the video.
Additionally, sports medicine organizations, other Federations, governing bodies like the NCAA and high school associations, national athletic trainer associations, and any entity that has an interaction with a player, parent, coach or referee, can use this video as well as part of their educational tools.
There’s a tremendous amount of work in front of us. We’ve done a good job thus far with Recognize to Recover in making sure that platform is available and we’ll continue to build upon that to make sure that the video is seen and educates.”
There have been a number of different studies coming out about concussions in soccer. What is U.S. Soccer doing to stay on top of all the new information available?
GC: “One of the best things that we do is that we’re receptive to new information and have a good line of communication with researchers, not only here in the United States but globally. While we recognize that these studies are still evolving and there’s still quite a bit to learn in regards to this injury, you can see that with our recent heading changes U.S. Soccer has taken a huge step to make player safety a top priority.
We have several medical advisory board members who are integral in the concussion guidelines and policies in all sports. They’re ones that we communicate and collaborate with understanding the most recent information and guidelines. We look at all the research and know what research is quality research and what research needs to be filtered through a little bit better. We will continue to do that.
Part of that is also myself traveling and seeing some of these new developments. This week, I am going to Berlin where they will release the next guidelines in concussion injuries. Being there and having a seat at the table, being able to raise soccer’s specific issues and research implications can no doubt help us continue to expand how we handle concussions in our sport.”
ussoccer.com: U.S. Soccer implemented heading rules earlier this year. How has that been received at the youth levels?
GC: “Initially quite a few people were skeptical. However, since that time we’ve had very significant and positive conversations and reviews from many coaches that have been coaching for a long time saying that this has been a good thing in the sense that it keeps the ball down at the players’ feet. For the first couple of months after the change, referees needed to adjust, blow the whistle and stop the game. Being a parent myself and watching my kids, it really hasn’t changed the game in a negative way at all. Kids are very adaptable and that’s what we’re seeing right now on the field, especially at those ages.
We’ve actually sent out a survey to all of our state associations and member organizations so that we can gather information on the impact of the rule changes. We want to know: How was this received? Are they seeing any positive or negative impacts by what we’ve implemented? That shows that we didn’t only change the rules, but we’re making sure that the change has had a positive effect. That requires us to reach out and get information from our membership organizations, from coaches, and determine if we need to make any more changes or adjustments.
I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the survey I described above and getting the information from those who are in and around the game on a daily basis. Once we have that, we will share with the membership organizations so that we can continue to all work together.”
What else is U.S Soccer doing to make sure it continues to look at concussions in soccer and provide education to everyone that is part of the game?
GC: “U.S. Soccer is going to continue to collaborate with leaders in this space, continue to be at meetings, be there when policies are made, and embrace soccer’s role within managing this injury. We’re going to do that not only here in the United States in our professional leagues, but also at the global level as well. There’s always good things that happen when conversations are had. I think one of the biggest things that U.S. Soccer has done is to engage in positive conversations in regards to this injury, especially at the youth level. There’s going to be some things that we’re going to learn and some things that we probably already know. Collectively and collaboratively, if we can work with the world in soccer and see what the research shows – and we hope to continue to learn new things – then we think we can make sure that the game as safe as possible with regards to this injury.
Most importantly, we need to recognize that concussions and injuries will always be a part of the game. We can never eliminate it, but what we can do is identify when the injury happens, make sure that that athlete receives the appropriate care, and that they’re completely cleared and their symptoms are resolved when they step back on the field. We can make sure that they’ve gone through all the appropriate steps so that they can continue to play the game they love as long as they want. Those are our goals."