English football introduces new heading guidance

English football will introduce new heading guidance from the beginning of the 2021/22 season.

The guidance will be implemented across all levels of the professional and amateur game.

The FA say that the new guidance is specifically focused on “training sessions where the majority of heading occurs”.

Based on the findings of a preliminary study which found the majority of headers involve low forces, the focus of the guidance in professional football is on headers that involve higher forces.

The FA add that these forces typically come from headers from a long pass of more than 35 metres, crosses, corners and free kicks.

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

It also says that early evidence suggests that lower forces are produced when a ball is thrown to a player instead of kicked, and headers from a standing jump instead of a running jump.

These new protocols apply to clubs in the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship, as well as down to steps 1-4 of the men’s National League system.

In adult amateur football, the recommendation is that heading practice is limited to 10 headers per session, with only one session per week including heading.

Last year, the FA announced guidance that included no heading in training for primary school children, and a “graduated approach” to heading training for children aged under-11 to under-16.

FA chief executive statement on new guidance

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said in a statement: “We already have the most comprehensive guidelines in the world for youth football and now we are introducing, in partnership with the other football bodies, the most comprehensive adult football guidelines anywhere.

“Our heading guidance now reaches across all players, at all levels of the game.

“These measures have been developed following studies with coaches and medics and represent a cautious approach whilst we learn more.

“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.”

An MPs’ inquiry earlier this month concluded that sport has been allowed to “mark its own homework” on reducing the risks of brain injuries.

Amongst its recommendations were that the Health and Safety Executive “should work with National Governing Bodies of all sports to establish a national framework for the reporting of sporting injuries”.

The select committee report stated that both the FA and PFA had “engaged strongly with our inquiry and listed a number of studies and programmes that they have funded and run”.

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