The City of San Diego says it will be checking to see if local soccer clubs are doing what they are supposed to when it comes to soccer goal post safety after NBC 7 Investigates found some posts not secured properly.
According to experts, there are standards soccer clubs should follow when it comes to storing goal posts when in use and not in use. This includes appropriately anchoring them when in use. Parents NBC 7 Investigates spoke with said they are not familiar with what makes a goal post safe, or in many cases, unsafe.
Two years ago an accident at a school in Chula Vista brought this issue to light.
A 13-year-old boy fractured his skull after he jumped on an unsecured goal post and it fell on him. The family sued the Sweetwater Union High School District, and according to his attorney, Horatio Barraza, the family has reached a settlement.
According to Barraza, the teenager, Marco La Farga, has hearing loss, memory loss, and blurry vision.
“His parents report all sorts of mood swings associated with this type of injury,” said Barraza.
After the goal post fell, La Farga had to be airlifted to Rady Children's Hospital. He was there for more than a month, three weeks of that spent in a medically induced coma.
According to records of soccer goal incidents reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there have been 58 incidents since the year 2000.
“It is so preventable,” said Tom Tobin, the former National Executive Director for the American Youth Soccer Organization in Los Angeles. One role of the organization is to increase awareness and educate parents, coaches and soccer leagues about goal post safety.
“Kids are kids and they turn a soccer goal into a jungle gym,” said Tobin. “So, if it's easy for them to do that, then we have a much higher risk of tipping incident.”
According to Tobin, the majority of the injuries happen when there is no organized activity, with little or no adult supervision, making how the posts are stored critical.
“When goals are not in use, the best thing you can do is chain them face to face or chain them up against a fence or building in such a way they can't be used," Tobin said. "That's the best way to protect kids when adults are not around."
Checking soccer fields in San Diego, NBC 7 Investigates found goal posts that were not stored properly. At Hickman Field in Kearny Mesa, one post was not chained to the fence at all, though it is behind a locked gate. Another was chained only on one side. Experts recommend a chain on both sides.
At Robb Field in Ocean Beach, NBC 7 Investigates found posts out in the open, not secured. They were lightweight, which Tobin said makes them even more likely to tip.
NBC 7 Investigates contacted the organization that owns the improperly stored goal posts at Robb Field. After being shown pictures of the unsecured posts, a director said the soccer club now will be taking the posts down every day and locking them inside a cage. As for the posts at Hickman Field, a soccer official said he would follow up with the clubs using the field to look into what actions may need to be taken.
The city of San Diego gives various soccer clubs permits to use city-owned fields. After being alerted to what NBC 7 Investigates found, the city says it will follow up with groups at every park to ensure goal posts are stored safely.
During games, referees are supposed to make sure the posts are anchored so they won’t tip. Tobin said they should also be anchored during practices. According to Tobin, stakes should be driven into holes in the posts sidebars. If it is a turf field, sandbags can be used as counterweights, or cylinders of lead can be attached to the back bar.
NBC 7 Investigates also visited two soccer practices. Both times, there were goal posts that were not anchored down.
When questioned about the goal posts, one coach said he was using the goal post to teach field position, not scoring. Besides, he said he is supervising his players.
Another coach nearby agreed.
“He looks like he's got a pretty controlled soccer environment and those kids look a little older,” said Kevin Rine.
Tobin said that is not always good enough.
“Kids will be kids, and even in just a moment with the coach's attention diverted somewhere else and there's a pause or a moment in the practice,” a child’s inclination is to hang on the goal post, he said.
Barraza said Marco’s parents are relieved he survived, as it could have been much worse. Marco is now 16 years old and according to Barraza, he and his family moved back to Mexico so Marco can better deal with the trauma.