July 29 – In a radical move, English football authorities are to limit the number of “high-force headers” among professional and amateur players to 10 per week in training as part of new guidelines.
Headers that involve higher forces are typically those taken after a long pass of more than 35 metres or from crosses, corners and free kicks, a joint statement from the governing bodies said.
The guidelines come after the issue of dementia in the professional game was highlighted by the death last year of Nobby Stiles who, along with many of his 1966 World Cup-winning team mates, had been diagnosed with the condition.
In 2019, a study found professional footballers were more likely to suffer from neurodegenerative brain disease.
“This recommendation is provided to protect player welfare and will be reviewed regularly as further research is undertaken to understand more regarding the impact of heading in football,” a statement said.
“The guidance also recommends clubs develop player profiles that consider gender, age, playing position, the number of headers per match and the nature of these headers.
“These profiles can be used to ensure that all training sessions reflect the type and quantity of headers that a player could expect to undertake within a match.”
The guidelines have been agreed by the Football Association, Premier League, English Football League, Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers Association.
Amateur players have been recommended to only head the ball 10 times a session with only one session a week where heading is practised.
Clubs in the Premier League, EFL, Barclays Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, National League, the Women’s Football Pyramid Tiers 3 and below, all grassroots football and across the England national teams will receive the guidance as the governing bodies try to address the risk of brain injuries.
“We already have the most comprehensive guidelines in the world for youth football and now we are introducing, in partnership with the other football bodies, the most comprehensive adult football guidelines anywhere,” said FA chief executive Mark Bullingham. “Our heading guidance now reaches across all players, at all levels of the game.
“These measures have been developed following studies with coaches and medics and represent a cautious approach whilst we learn more. We are committed to further medical research to gain an understanding of any risks within football, in the meantime this reduces a potential risk factor.
“Overall it is important to remember that the overwhelming medical evidence is that football and other sports have positive impacts on both mental and physical health.”
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