English football clubs may be required to significantly adapt their training methods after the game’s leading bodies agreed on new guidance to limit the number of headers players can make.
The recommendations will restrict footballers to 10 “higher strength” headers per week in training amid ongoing research on the potential health risks associated with heading a ball regularly, which could include dementia. They were announced on Wednesday by the Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, the Professional Footballers Association and the League Managers Association, and include stipulations for professional and amateur games.
It follows multiple studies carried out in recent months by a subgroup of the Professional Football Negotiating and Advisory Committee, which involved a cohort of players from the Liverpool under-23, under-18 and women’s teams, and from Manchester City under- 18 and women’s teams.
The development is expected to be widely welcomed within the game, although questions have been raised about the app’s feasibility and guidance has been asked to go further, particularly in regards to considerations about women and children.
The heaviest headers were defined in a joint statement by the authorities as “typically headers after a long pass (more than 35 m) or from crosses, corners and free throws.” In addition, he noted that most of the headlines involve “low forces.” However, clubs that follow the guide to the letter are likely to find training for set pieces, a cornerstone of preparation at all levels, particularly challenging given the number of aerial duels traditionally involved.
In more detail, the guidelines suggest that clubs limit the number of headers made when a player takes three or more steps and runs toward the ball, or swoops to meet it. They also propose that players refine heading technique using thrown passes, which involve “lower maximum accelerations.”
For adult amateur soccer, it is recommended that heading practice be limited to 10 heads per session, performed in one session per week. The statement said that this guide was “to reduce overall header exposure without compromising the development of technique and the role of the header in the English game.”
FA Executive Chef Mark Bullingham said: “These measures have been developed after studies with coaches and doctors and represent a cautious approach as we learn more. We are committed to further medical research to understand the risks within soccer; meanwhile, this reduces a possible risk factor. “
Professional clubs will be encouraged to ensure that players have enough time after matches to recover from their heads. The studies found “early but limited evidence” that increased neck muscle strength can contribute to a safer headline and research will be conducted on how it can be developed safely.
Club adherence to the guide will not be monitored, although they are expected to take it seriously. Some figures in the game have wondered how, in practice, it can be applied in a competitive training session. The statement said that “it is essential that club staff monitor each player’s heading practice in real time” and that clubs must develop profiles detailing the nature of the heads that each player typically performs.
Dr. Michael Gray, a football and dementia expert at the University of East Anglia who gave evidence from the government’s report on “concussions in sport” last week, welcomed the guidelines but expressed some reservations.
“It is unclear on what basis these specific FA limitations have been made and how the new guidance will be applied,” he said. “The recommendations make no distinctions based on gender despite growing evidence that women are more susceptible to head injuries than men. There are biological differences between men and women in both structure and physiology that warrant a more considered approach. “
Gray also said an outright ban on nodding should be considered in younger children. Elementary school kids can’t head the ball in practice.
The ramifications of the title have come under intense scrutiny in recent years. A study from the University of Glasgow in 2019 found that former footballers were three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases. This month, an investigation by deputies said the sport had been allowed to “mark its own task” to reduce the risks of brain injury.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism