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U.S. Soccer OKs caps for refs

By Mike Woitalla

Kudos to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has announced its approval for referees to wear caps.

Previous wording in U.S. Soccer’s “Advise to Referees on the Laws of the Game” stated that, “Hats or caps are not part of the officially accepted uniform …”

Recent reporting by Soccer America referee columnist Randy Vogt and myself demonstrated that even at the grass-roots level, referees in the USA were not protecting themselves from skin cancer with headwear because they believed they were not allowed to wear caps.

The new wording from U.S. Soccer:

• Caps may be worn so long as the cap does not endanger the safety of the official or the players.

• The cap should be consistent with the referee uniform and not conflict with the uniform colors worn by either team.

• The cap may not bear any commercial marks or logos.

In April, long time referee Vogt, who two years ago had surgery for two types of skin cancer on his scalp, addressed the issue in his article, “The Skin Cancer Dilemma for Refs.”

“A great amount of credit should go to those refs who posted their personal stories about skin cancer under the articles or contacted us about their stories, such as Joe Machnik. Their support showed this is a vitally important issue,” Vogt says. “I’m thrilled that U.S. Soccer recognizes that wearing a cap is good preventive medicine and the folks in Chicago [U.S. Soccer headquarters] deserve a ton of credit for responding so quickly, for the safety of their refs who spend so many hours in the sun.”

Machnik, one of the USA’s most accomplished referees and currently Fox Sports’ referee analyst, is also a melanoma survivor. “I don’t see a downside to referees wearing caps,” he said.

The soccer world tends to be stubborn and move slowly about making changes, thus U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati deserves plenty of praise for acting swiftly on this issue that affects so many.

Last weekend I once again spent much time on the fields of one of the seemingly countless youth soccer tournaments around the country. Most the refs I spoke were working three games per day under the hot summer sun — and they assumed they couldn’t wear caps.

On Monday, U.S. Soccer began spreading the word that they can. It announced that, as part of its “commitment to health and safety” its “medical and referee experts prepared the following recommendations for the referee community and incorporated them into our referee education materials”:

• Consider wearing sunscreen daily on areas of exposed skin.
• Apply skin protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 15 minutes prior to being exposed to the sun.
• At a minimum, reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating extensively.
• Take advantage of halftime to reapply.
• Consider wearing long sleeves (or UV protective clothing) if applicable during high sun exposure periods.
• Periodically (once a year) review exposed skin for any changes or growths and consult your doctor or dermatologist.
• Caps may be worn so long as the cap does not endanger the safety of the official or the players.
• The cap should be consistent with the referee uniform and not conflict with the uniform colors worn by either team.
• The cap may not bear any commercial marks or logos.

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