The body that oversees the laws of global football is under increasing pressure to address the threat that headers poses to the health of players
Football lawmakers will consider changes to the heading rules when scientific research shows a clearer link to brain injury, Ifab’s chairman said I.
The Football Association of England introduced recommendations for clubs in July to limit high force headers – from a 35 yard pass, flanks, free kicks and corners – to 10 per week in training, despite Tottenham coach Nuno Espirito Santo admitting that his club to those who ignore them.
The International Football Association Board (Ifab) – which controls the rules of the game – is aware of developments in the UK, but formal discussions about how the game are played are pending.
Ifab boss Lukas Brud said I: “When it comes to the future, maybe at some point we will talk more specifically about it when more information is available. Right now our focus is on concussions, but if further research shows that we need to look at the headline in general, we obviously won’t turn a blind eye and say we don’t care.
“We will examine any kind of clear evidence and take it seriously. It’s not officially discussed at this point, we’re just focusing on how to handle an in-game concussion when there is a suspected or obvious concussion.
“No question; If there is clear evidence that certain areas of football have an impact on player health, the Ifab will look into it. “
Brain injury charities insist that there is already enough evidence of action to reduce the in-game headline. Dr. Judith Gates, co-founder of Head for Change, believes that “the associative links regarding the dangers between heading and neurodegenerative disease are so strong that they are irrefutable.”
Head for Change does not want headlines to be blocked but is interested in changes being made to keep players safe. “The history of neurology shows the dangers of being hit on the head across the board,” added Dr. Gates added.
Research by Professor Willie Stewart, a leading expert in the field, shows that footballers are three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative brain disease than the average person – and as many as five times more likely to die from defenders.
However, some who work in the field believe that not enough research has been done. Dr. Greg Wood, Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Movement Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, is researching how virtual reality can be used to train the head.
“Investments have to be made here,” said Dr. Wood I. “It should come from Fifa, the Premier League, the clubs. Anyone who has anything to do with soccer: It’s a multi-billion pound business. ”
Dr. Wood uses a VR program called Player 22 created by Rezzil, a cognitive development and analysis company, and is already used by some Premier League clubs. Initial results show that VR can improve performance.
“Depending on the results, we are looking for larger-scale funding,” said Dr. Wood. “Subconcussive strokes, like thousands of headers, are not monitored and the players are not rested. There is research showing that this could be worse. “
Peter McCabe, chairman of the board of directors for Headway Brain Injury charity, said, “Defending football for its lack of purpose in solving this problem tends to focus on a lack of evidence. But why is it like that? For years, Headway has urged this multi-billion dollar industry to invest in research to better understand the risks to those who play the game. These and many other calls from campaign groups like the Jeff Astle Foundation were repeatedly ignored. “
Dementia is changing attitudes in football. Read Sam Cunningham’s full report on what the future of heading might look like here