In youth sports, measures are taken to ensure that all participants are the proper age for the team they are playing on. However, simply asking for identification documents isn’t always enough, as there are many examples of occasions where players faked their age or had their documents faked by coaches in order to gain an unfair advantage. Doing this not only cheapens any victories that may result from it, but makes the games less fun for everybody else.
Some leagues use other methods in order to ensure fair play, such as only accepting medical documents from doctors that show players’ skeletal age (SA) as opposed to the standard practice of documents showing chronological age (CA). This is done by having athletes be subjected to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which shows how physically mature they are. This allows for more accurate determinations of age, and can even allow athletes to play in a higher or lower league than normal, depending on the results and rules of that league.
For example, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world governing soccer body, forces players hoping to participate in its U-17 competitions to be subjected to MRIs in order to ensure that they are not attempting to sneak into the competition with falsified documents. This makes sense, as FIFA is a very important organization in the eyes of the soccer world, so a cheating scandal wouldn’t be looked kindly upon.
This more-exact method can also be useful in aiding officials when the age of athletes may be in question and their appearance isn’t any help. There is no distinct age in which athletes enter puberty, and aside from some of the outward signs like facial hair and acne, there isn’t much than can indicate the age group that they are in. As such, athletes may look like they are 13-years old, and have false documents backing the story up, when they are, in reality much older. Taking MRIs counters this, as the SA does not lie.
Overall, this method seems like a very useful one, as it keeps cheaters from playing in leagues they should not be in. Perhaps it will see increased use as time goes on, ensuring a fair playing field.
National Sports ID is the best way to make sure players are the proper age and grade they claim to be, as well as to protect the integrity of leagues and tournaments.