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Question Number: 31248

Law 3 - The Players 2/10/2017

RE: Middle school girls' soccer Under 14

Laura of Santa rita, GU USA asks...

A player is carried off the field from an injury and the ball was in possession of the opposing team, no foul called. The injured player started the game in a hard brace from her thigh to her shin. Is this legal? To play with a hard cast? She later returned into the game and was injured again. Again, not by foul play. Three separate incidents occurred during this game , where opposing team had possession and a girl was injured but after ball changed possession, they were subbed back in. Thoughts? Safety of my players against a hard brace and safety of player in said brace. I asked the ref and he ignored me.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Laura,
forgive I am a bit confused? The girl WITH the cast was injured and/or she injured 3 different opponents?
There is no actual law against a brace other than ITOOTR it must not pose a danger to the any of players including the wearer.
Mind you the ROC (rules of competition) might have bylaws that state the type and form these devices can take.
Players can be hurt away from play for a variety of reasons, do I assume you believe it was the contact with the brace for the opponents that injured them and the fact the girl WITH the brace suffered pain even while wearing it? Or is this more to do with the cynical nature of wasting time or stopping the attack as a ploy, pretending to hurt more than they are? The USB action of deceit or diving is usually not a u-14 tactic but if so it is cautionable showing a yellow card
Referee do try to take into account the kids willingness to play under duress and are not doctors to state, 'Hey this is a bad idea!'. Only if it is acutely obvious the player was going to injure another or themselves would a referee not permit the device to be used.
As a coach I was loath to allow my players to participate hurt for a number of reasons, their safety of course paramount. Kids have a way of thinking they can still do things when they should rest! Tough to dissuade them. A referee will look at the reality but the league may have restrictions and guidelines imposed that he could consider.
If the kids chooses to play or if the coach permits a player to stay out when it appears they are in pain. I hold no matter what the league states, if a referee fear for the safety of the player he should stand firm and not permit them to play IF there is cause to see the device a unsafe. This include if the actions of an injured player create suspicion of a concussion , possible broken bone, massive swelling etc.. If they can observe a specific medical condition where the player demonstrates he is not fully aware of their surroundings or is crying in pain or is constantly falling down and collapsing. Although I would have a word to the coach about my concerns if I thought he was playing TOO hurt to be effective or liable to injure themselves to a greater degree . If it was serious or life threatening I would step in, halt play until the injured player was no longer part of the match and if necessary abandon that match if they refused to not play him further.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Laura
A player is allowed to play in a brace or a soft cast provided that in the opinion of the referee the brace / cast poses no risk to opponents. Some competition rules require that the brace / cast is covered with foam and some do not allow any to be worn. Referee Manjone has quoted the NFHS position. In the absence of a competition rule it is left to the discretion of the referee as to the risk posed. I would allow a knee brace yet I would not allow a hard cast to be worn. This does read like a hard cast just a knee brace?
Now I detect from your post that in addition to player safety that you raise the issue of injuries and the game stopping for same. It would concern me that a team would cynically use a player injury to stop the game because it loses possession in certain situations. Unless it was a head injury and / or connected with say a challenge I would be trying not to stop the game for minor injuries such as strains etc. Certainly at older age groups and in adult games I would not stop the game in such circumstances.
Now at Under 14 it is not so easy to not stop. Referees do not like to incur the wrath of teams, parents by not stopping for a player that is down on the ground so they tend to stop. Unfortunately I have seen teams abuse this. I once had an adult player lie down *injured* when he realised he was beaten and his team in a poor position. I did not stop play.
I once had a team whose star player was injured and he had to leave 4 times before eventually being subbed out when his father intervened to remove him from the game. I tried to keep the game going until the next natural stoppage each time. Now in that instance it was done to try to keep the player in the game rather than trying to frustrate the opponent on loss of possession. I knew the player should not be continuing yet it was not my call.
In respect of casts I recall an incident before the 1978 World Cup final between the Netherlands and Argentina when the Argentinians objected to an arm cast worn by an opponent on his injured forearm since it could have injured an Argentinian player. Despite the covering bandage having been passed by FIFA and worn in previous matches, the referee, Italian Sergio Gonella vacillated, while the Dutch players threatened to walk off the field if the player was not allowed to play and Argentina refusing to start. Finally an extra layer of padding was applied to the bandage as a solution, and the match started.
Now you state that the referee ignored you. At the very least he should have said that in his opinion the brace was allowed under the laws / rulesand it did not pose a risk so he was allowing it. The real risk IMO is the player playing while not fully fit and risking further injury during the recovery period. Ultimately if any coach is not happy with any risk posed or the explanations / reassurances given the team can refuse to play as in the WC example. Yes that might have repercussions with the competition organisers etc yet that it the ultimate manner in which to elimate risk that is not dealt with. Once the local rule is known then the position to play / not play is much stronger. For instance if the rule says that casts cannot be worn then there is no issue or that metal on braces must be covered with its foam cover then again the player cannot play.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

I believe that I am familiar with the knee brace that you refer to. Are your middle school games played under NFHS Rules as most middle schools in the U.S.? If so, knee braces that are unaltered are legal and do not require any additional padding. (NFHS Rule 4-2-1f). I believe that the knee brace that you are referencing would be legal under this rule. However, any equipment that is, in the opinion of the referee, dangerous or confusing is illegal. (NFHS Rule 4-2-1) Thus, if the referee felt that this knee brace was dangerous, he should have declared it illegal. Obviously, he did not believe it was dangerous. I hope that your team has a successful season.

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