Feature

Headers in training set to be limited for professionals in England

Due to links with degenerative brain diseases, headers in training will be limited to 10 times per week

 
6:00pm on Wednesday 28th July 2021
By
Martin Macdonald

New regulations are to be introduced that will limit the number of headers professional footballers practice in training per week.

Over the last few years, heading within football, especially among children, has become a hot topic.

A study conducted in 2019 found that footballers are more likely to suffer from degenerative brain diseases Dementia compared to people whose jump doesn't involve frequently heading a ball.

In February of last year, the practice of heading in training sessions was banned for all children aged 11 or under in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland at all levels.

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Several high-profile former footballers such as Sir Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Jeff Astle have all died within the last few years after suffering brain disease, with Charlton suffering from Dementia before his death.

In order to protect players, they will be limited to 10 'high force' headers per week in training at ever level of English football including the Premier League.

"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."

What has the reaction been?

Former Arsenal, West Ham and England central defender Matthew Upson told Sky Sports he is in favour of the rule change.

"I 100% back the research and the studies that have gone into making this step," he said.

"There's been a lot of work behind the scenes, researching the impact of heading the ball and it seems a very reasonable request if I'm honest.

"The key words are the 'high impact' contact. You can still practice heading, technically, as let's be honest, heading is a real art - a matter of timing, technicality towards it.

"Those big ones when you're heading from a goal kick or from a corner - it just makes sense in training not to expose yourself to that impact.

"Save it for opportunities in matches when three points are on the line. In training, it just makes perfect sense, so I fully welcome the change."

Studies have shown that it can have an impact on your health

When asked whether he looks back on some training sessions in the past and worries about his own health, Upson admits he wouldn't agree to them now.

"I sometimes cast my mind back to some of the sessions that I've done over the 20 years as a professional footballer, and looking back, you wouldn't entertain a training session like that," he continued.

"You wouldn't head a number of large balls into the box. When as an apprentice practicing those big, headed clearances and getting your head on kicks from the halfway line.

"There isn't really a need to practice that in mass numbers. Studies have shown that it can have an impact on your health."

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