Bubble Soccer Safety
Bubble Soccer: The safest sport known to Man (and Woman) outside of Ping Pong.
As with any recreational or competitive activity, there is a risk for injury. However, with proper guidelines for players and correct use of the equipment bubble soccer is an inherently safe sport. There has been no conclusive study to date. However, based on the experience of our operations and the collective operations of the U.S. Bubble Soccer Association (USBSA), I would contend the defined risk of injury per 1,000 is actually less than other accepted sports such as soccer, basketball and football.
Proper risk mitigation occurs through several means; with equipment, through rules and gameplay guidelines and through environmental safety.
On equipment. There are a lot of different manufacturers and distributors of “bubble soccer suits,” in the U.S., but none with the quality and safety standards of Battle Balls. The primary role of bubble soccer equipment is to help ensure player safety. If used correctly, bubble soccer equipment should provide proper body and head/neck protection during play. As far as function, a safe bubble soccer suit will have straps that do not come loose or “slip” during play, will have proper head clearance when a player is wearing a suit, and will have soft handles to mitigate the risk of a player’s face contacting the handles during play.
The straps and head clearance is mandatory for a safe bubble soccer suit. Invariably, players will flip upside down at some point during play. Properly adjusted straps and head clearance within the ball, ensure that there is little to no risk of injury from a player’s head/neck coming in contact with the ground. The head/neck clearance is also the responsibility of operators to maintain safety checks on the equipment for proper inflation.
Battle Balls® and USBSA highly recommends against equipment with hard plastic handles. From experience of our operators, there is a high risk of injury from players contacting the hard plastic handles during game play; the risk extends to the eyes (along with risk of orbital fracture), nose and mouth. The following alternative with soft woven fabric and or woven fabric with soft plastic sheath is recommended.
Game play safety. To ensure proper safety, there are rules which must be instituted during play (and enforced with the players). Following is a list of some rules, but is not intended within this blog to be comprehensive.
-Playing the Ball on the Ground: playing the ball from the ground is not allowed. There is a risk of a player’s leg being stepped on, or from another player falling on a player’s leg.
-Contact on the Ground: no contact is allowed with a player who is already on the ground. There is an increased risk of injury as players try to stand to regain their balance and are contacted while trying to stand.
-No Contact off of the Ball: There will be incidental contact during play as players move toward the ball, however forceful and purposeful contact with another player who is not near the ball can increase injury risk as players will not expect the contact to occur.
-No “launching:” Players are not allowed to leave the ground or “launch” into another player (jump up into the air). This increases the risk of players being pushed upwards and coming down from a height to contact the ground.
In addition to a few guidelines above, operators are encouraged to employ additional rules in regards to environmental safety.
When outdoors, such rules include keeping spectators, or people not in a Battle Ball, off of the field of play. There is a risk of injury when a spectator, not in a suit, is contacted on the sidelines by a player in a bubble soccer suit.
When playing indoors, the field of play must be marked with cones or other markers away from walls, bleachers or other obstructions. This is critical. The greatest risk of injury seen by Battle Ball operators of the USBSA has been through player contact with walls or obstructions. A player’s body is safe within a Battle Ball bubble soccer suit, however if a player is contacted and flips upside down in rolling forward, their legs and feet are exposed to injury by contact with a wall or other obstruction. Additionally, if a player is contacted forcefully from behind, and makes contact with a wall, there is a risk for back injury as the immoveable object drives their body backwards in equal force to the contact a player makes with a wall.
Given above, referees and operators supervising indoor play need to institute strict rules when enforcing field boundaries. One popular rule is enforcing no contact near or beyond the cones marking play. The first player to the ball when headed out-of-bounds is given a free play to put the ball back inbounds “untouched” by an opposing player. Opposing players are required to stand inside the cones and field of play as the ball is played back inbounds. This rule is to be strictly enforced through the use of a “two-minute” penalty, similar to a hockey penalty box for players who violate it. Ejection of players with multiple violations is necessary for the overall safety of game play.
In conclusion, the sport of bubble soccer is safe. As opposed to other popular sports, bubble soccer players do not face one of the greatest risks in sports of direct body-on-body collisions during play. With the resources provided by Battle Balls and the U.S. Bubble Soccer Association, including a risk mitigation packet as well as input from over 150+ operators Battle Balls is moving to advance the sport of bubble soccer in the U.S. for the greater enjoyment and safety of all.