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Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Injuries Associated with Soccer Goalposts -- United States, 1979-1993

Injuries associated with sports can be related to a variety of factors, including participant's level of conditioning or training, failure to use safety equipment, contact, overexertion, difficulty in conducting the task required, mismatch in skill or size between players, and adverse environmental conditions. A rare but often fatal event is a blow caused by a falling soccer goalpost resulting from improper installation or use. From 1979 through 1993, 27 persons were injured or killed from falling soccer goalposts. This report describes three (two fatal) injuries associated with soccer goalposts and summarizes an analysis of all fatal and nonfatal soccer goalpost-related injuries reported in the United States to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) during 1979-1993.

Case 1

A 16-year-old boy and two friends at a high school soccer field without adult supervision climbed the mobile soccer goalpost. As one person climbed on the horizontal header of the 600-pound steel goalpost, the goalpost tipped forward and struck the head of the 16-year-old, who was hanging from the header, and rendered him unconscious. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the scene and at the local emergency department was unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead 1 hour after the incident. An autopsy revealed severe blunt head trauma with multiple skull fractures and cerebral edema. Analysis of blood samples was negative for alcohol and drugs. The goalpost, which was commercially made and had been in service without incident for 6 years, was not anchored to the ground at the time of the incident.

Case 2

A 3-year-old boy was playing in front of a metal goalpost after a soccer game. As his father and brother were lifting one of the goalpost's corners to remove the net for storage, the goalpost fell, striking the boy's head and pinning him to the ground; he was rendered unconscious immediately. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was unsuccessful, and the boy was pronounced dead approximately 1 hour later. The goalpost had not been anchored.

Case 3

A 9-year-old boy was playing goalie during a team practice when a wind gust blew over the unstaked steel soccer goalpost. The child tried to stop the fall of the goalpost when it struck his upper leg and fractured his femur. He was hospitalized for 6 weeks and disabled for 4 months before regaining useful leg function. The goalpost had been moved before the beginning of practice, and the seven steel stakes that secured it to the ground had been left behind.

Analysis of National Morbidity and Mortality Data

Data about persons injured or killed by falling soccer goalposts in the United States during 1979-1993 were identified by CPSC from 1) the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (1) 2) newspaper clippings, 3) medical examiner reports, and 4) personal contacts made by soccer coaches or equipment manufacturers to CPSC. Each case was investigated through site inspections and interviews with the injured patient, a parent or other family member, a witness, and/or authorities responsible for purchase or maintenance of the soccer goalposts.

During 1979-1993, 27 injuries related to falling soccer goalposts were investigated by CPSC, of which 18 were fatal. Most (23) injuries occurred among males; the mean age of injured persons was 10 years. Head trauma was the principal cause of death in 14 of the fatal injuries and was diagnosed in two of the nonfatal ones.

Of the 27 goalposts involved, 26 were made of metal, usually steel or galvanized pipe; 23 of the goalposts were mobile, one was permanently installed, and three were of unknown type. Twenty-five injuries occurred when a goalpost fell forward, with the top crossbar striking the victim. Eighteen goalposts were not anchored, one was anchored poorly, and three were anchored properly; for five, the status could not be determined. Fifteen of the incidents occurred on a school field; 11, at a local or private field; and one, at an unspecified site. Four events occurred during a soccer game and four during practice; the remaining events occurred during times not involving games or practice. All 27 events were witnessed: in six cases, an adult was directly supervising and in visual contact with the victim; in eight, an adult supervisor was in the general vicinity, although not in visual contact. Four injuries were associated with a person climbing; seven, with a person swinging or doing chin-ups; six, with lifting the soccer goalpost; and four, with wind gusts. In 12 (nine fatal) incidents, the injured persons caused the goalposts to fall.

Reported by: J DeMarco, C Reeves, US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Div of Unintentional Injuries Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: The findings in this report indicate the potential for serious injuries associated with improperly installed or used soccer goalposts. Regulation soccer goalposts can be manufactured from steel, aluminum, or metal pipe; measure approximately 8 feet by 24 feet; and weigh 250-800 pounds. Because the mouth of the goalpost is completely open to the playing field, only three sides are available for stabilizing the goalpost from forward falls. The reports to CPSC indicate that injuries typically result from climbing on goalposts, swinging or hanging from crossbars, or doing chin-ups on crossbars.

In the United States, soccer goalposts are manufactured by seven companies, and an undetermined number are produced by local machine shops without strict specifications. In 1990, CPSC issued a voluntary labeling standard for use of warning labels on the front and back of the crossbar and the front of the goalposts. Because of concerns about the inability of young children to read such warnings and the likelihood that older children would ignore these warnings, voluntary standards were adopted in 1992 by manufacturers; these standards specify the need to anchor or counterweight the goalposts using driving stakes, auger stakes, vertical pipe sleeves, or sandbags. If stakes are used, four are recommended -- two on the rear and one on either side. Goalposts not in use should be chained to a fence or other permanent structure, placed goal-face down on the ground, or disassembled for storage. Additional information concerning these or other methods of anchoring is available from the Coalition to Promote Soccer Goal Safety, telephone (800) 527-7510 or (800) 531-4252.

The findings in this report demonstrate the potential benefit of using a national surveillance system to collect data on rare injury events. Accurately assessing the extent of such events and targeting prevention efforts requires calculating an injury rate through improved collection of numerator and denominator data and collecting exposure risk data (i.e., age and sex of injured person and level of competition). In addition, schools, park districts, and soccer associations should report injuries associated with falling soccer goalposts to the CPSC hotline, telephone (800) 638-2772. For injuries involving goalposts that were properly installed and used, specific information should be collected about the materials and method used to anchor these structures and soil and weather conditions on the day of the incident.

References

  1. US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS sample: design and implementation. Washington, DC: US Consumer Product Safety Commission, March 1986.



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