5 On Your Side

Child's death brings soccer safety hazard to light

Posted October 18, 2010

Soccer is popular with children, but there's a serious safety hazard on the field – portable goals. Half a million of them are in use in the U.S. and can weigh up to 400 pounds each. If not properly secured, they can tip over.

Hayden Ellias, 10, of Virginia, was a star soccer player until a game in May 2007 ended his life.

“We could see Hayden lying lifeless on the ground with the goal on top of him,” said his mother, Mary Ellias. “I knew it was bad.”

Mary Ellias immediately called 911.

"At the time, I thought it was a freak accident. I was calling it a freak accident, but it's not a freak accident,” she said.

Experts say the problem is that soccer goals are heaviest in the front and can tip without warning. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 34 children have died since 1979 from injuries caused by overturned soccer goals. Every year, more than 200 players are hurt.

Many of the incidents involve head injuries that happened when goals tipped while children were climbing or hanging from the bars. Some fatal tip-overs happened when the victim was doing pull-ups or after a gust of wind.

Safety hazard exists in soccer Safety hazard exists in soccer

To protect players, goals are supposed to be held down with sand bags or stakes. 

"If I put weight on the front of this goal, you'll see it's not going to go. It's not going to swing,” said soccer referee Kevin Kayehe.

Referees are required to check goals before every game to make sure they're properly secured. Mary Ellias says parents need to double check.

Mary Ellias has since started a website in her son's honor called Hayden's Goal, and it's goal is to educate parents on how to help keep their children safe on the soccer field.

“I promised Hayden his death would not be in vain, because nobody else should have horrible memories,” she said.

Mary Ellias has other children who play soccer. Her family always brings sandbags with them just in case they find unanchored goals.

Safety experts say parents should also talk with their children about the dangers of portable soccer goals. Finally, goals should be taken down when they're not in use so kids can't play on them.


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  • molliecjan1 Oct 21, 2010

    god bless you

  • darlenerivera2000 Oct 21, 2010

    Mary i'm sorry about your little beautiful boy, my kids dont play soccer, but they want too, now if i ever do sign them up i will have you child on my mind. thanks for sharing your story and once again sorry for your lost.

  • froggytroat Oct 21, 2010

    >>I'll never allow my child near them again unless he's kicking a ball into them....from a distance!

    Que the paranoid parents...

  • j-lo93 Oct 20, 2010

    I am talking to my children about this TODAY... how tragic.

  • cth1 Oct 20, 2010

    Wow...how scary!! Thank you...Mary Ellias...for telling your story! I'm sure it's hard to relive that moment over and over. I'm thankful you are brave enough to educate others. I had no idea!!

    So sorry for your loss!! I can't imagine the pain you deal with on a daily basis!!

  • just my2cents Oct 19, 2010

    My goodness! I will link this to my Facebook page too. I had NO idea. My sons were not soccer players, but both nieces are. How scary.
    I am so sorry for your loss, I can not imagine.
    Thank you so much for educating us.

  • baracus Oct 19, 2010

    I almost got taken out by one when I was in middle school. As luck would have it the crossbar just glanced off the top of my head and I needed a few stitches. Had I been another step forward of the goal, it could have hit my neck and killed me.

  • jkca Oct 19, 2010

    I feel stupid, I had no idea these were so deadly. I knew they weren't sturdy and could be a hazard. I'll never allow my child near them again unless he's kicking a ball into them....from a distance!

  • rebecca7 Oct 19, 2010

    I recall in elementary school this happened on our playground. The boy was OK in the end, but there was blood gushing from his ears and it was terribly scary. They immediately removed the goals from the grounds. What a sad story. I am so sorry for your loss Mary.

  • mgellias Oct 18, 2010

    Our family and Hayden's Goal, thanks you for covering this story. It's a message that can never be repeated too much. I hope that your viewers will see this and heed the warnings of how dangerous soccer goals can be. It only takes a couple of minutes to secure a goal, you could be saving a child's life.

    Mary Ellias - Hayden's Mom