Science Behind the Header

Having announced her retirement from international soccer on Tuesday, Abby Wambach will go down as one of the greatest goal scorers in soccer history with an international record of 184 goals across her 15 year career. She was known for her ability to head the ball. In fact, 77 of her goals were scored with her head. So what goes into the mechanics behind heading to make a person as dangerous in the air as Wambach was?

On of my previously written blogs discuses the dangers behind heading. It references how learning the proper techniques of heading can decrease the hazard of heading even if the exposure is high. So just to start with some good fundamentals, one should keep eyes locked on the ball when it is in flights and make contact with the forehead. It’s also a good practice to follow-through as the header becomes more powerful and decreases the impact suffered on the head.

Now onto the actual aspect of a powerful header. A good header starts with core strength in the body. The best headers typically have strong necks, shoulders, and cores which allows them to propels there bodies towards the ball. A good header needs the entire body to be involved.

Believe it or not, good headers start at the knees and legs. Whether you jump to reach the header or not, bending of the knees and putting pressure on the legs starts the momentum that with follow up through the body to the neck and head.

  Figure 2

Movement in the torso and back is needed next to continue the power in the header. Arching your back is like winding up to make contact. It provides the initial power that is needed to drive the header.

All of this build-up leads to the neck. The neck is how the head makes contact with the ball and drives it downward. Snapping the neck is a little motion that encompasses all of the power built up through the body to effectively drive through a ball. Keeping the shot down is also effective for creating more pace on the ball and challenging the keeper more with a lower shot.

Finally, the last part of the header is making the right contact. The ball connecting with the head just north or south of the forehead makes the build-up to the header pointless. No power or accuracy can be created this way. To effectively head the ball, it must connect with the forehead. Keeping eye contact with the ball until it reaches the forehead is helpful in this regard.

What should the final product look like?

2 thoughts on “Science Behind the Header

  1. Liam Arun Datwani

    This is really cool since you turned such an every day thing in sports into a science in a way. The one thing is as you mentioned before there was no mention here of the issues with heading a ball. specifically a soccer ball. A lot of things can cause concussions and while soccer does not create the worst brain injuries they can cause some damage. This one source found that even with proper techniques there is still damage. While I do find this guide useful it is still hurtful.

  2. Nicholas Andrew Goussetis

    Too bad I didn’t know about this when I played. I had no idea that much of the power from a header could come from the core, let alone anything below the shoulders. I have always been captivated by the performances of Wambach from my childhood, and now I’ll know how to replicate it on the pitch!

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