Sport

Heading in football: Professional players in England limited to 10 ‘higher force headers’ a week in training

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Professional footballers in England are to be limited to 10 “higher force headers” a week in training under new guidelines for the upcoming season.

It comes after recent “multiple studies” were conducted into concerns about the long-term dangers of heading.

In 2019, a study found professional footballers were more likely to suffer from neurodegenerative brain disease.

Guidance for amateurs is “10 headers per session and only one session a week where heading practice is included”.

It comes after an MPs’ inquiry earlier in July said that sport has been allowed to “mark its own homework” on reducing the risks of brain injury.

“The preliminary studies identified the varying forces involved in heading a football, which were provided to a cross-football working group to help shape the guidance,” said a joint statement on behalf of the Football Association, Premier League, English Football League, Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers Association.

“Based on those early findings, which showed the majority of headers involve low forces, the initial focus of the guidance [for professional football] will be on headers that involve higher forces.

“These are typically headers following a long pass (more than 35m) or from crosses, corners and free-kicks.

“It will be recommended that a maximum of 10 higher force headers are carried out in any training week.

“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.”

Research into football and head trauma has shown professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die from dementia than people of the same age range in the general population.

The Premier League introduced a trial of additional permanent concussion substitutions in February, while the FA introduced head injury substitutes into the FA Cup in February.

Children aged 11 and are no longer taught to head footballs during training in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while FA guidelines for coaches also puts limits on how much heading older children should do.

The new guidance for amateur football is for clubs “up to and including step five of the National League system and tier three and below of the women’s football pyramid, and is specifically tailored for this level of the game”.

“Our heading guidance now reaches across all players, at all levels of the game,” said FA chief executive Mark Bullingham.

“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.

“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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