Premier League stars limited to just 10 headers a week in training to help reduce risk of brain injuries

PROFESSIONAL footballers in England will be limited to a maximum of ten headers in training a week under new guidance aimed to help reduce the risk of brain injuries.

The protocols are being put in place before the start of this season in response to research linking repetitive heading to neurodegenerative brain disease such as dementia.

It means clubs will have to closely monitor the amount of time each individual player heads a ball kicked from long distances – including corners – and stop once they have reached double figures.

And all teams now face having to come up with new training sessions and programmes in the fortnight before the new campaign kicks off across the country.

The new regulations, launched with the backing of the FA, PFA, Premier League, EFL and LMA, are expected to be followed properly, although they are not being written as rules as this stage.

But having reached a joint agreement between the leagues and unions, sides are effectively being told the new protocols must be adopted immediately.

Authorities decided to act in the wake of a growing number of degenerative brain conditions suffered be ex-players after they had retired.

A joint-statement said: "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.

"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.

"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."

Recent research linking football and cases of head trauma have shown professional players and three-and-a-half times more likely to die from dementia than those of a similar age in the general public.

Some of the studies involved players wearing special gumshields which helped to record the impact to the head caused by heading the ball in different situations.

While the guidelines will dramatically affect the way training sessions are put together in the professional game, they are also being imposed on all amateur sides by the FA.

Heading is already banned in England for youngsters under the age of 11, but now grassroots training also limits each player to ten headers a week.

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

"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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