Dementia in football: PFA calls for heading restrictions in training amid health concerns

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) is calling for restrictions on heading in training, following concerns over the number of former players suffering from dementia.

The PFA says a game-wide strategy is urgently needed for dealing with dementia and neurodegenerative diseases in football.

It has asked for clubs, leagues and the Football Association to create a coordinated strategy to measure, monitor and adapt training, identifying protections that can make a difference to the long-term health of players.

In 2019, the PFA Charity-funded study, FIELD, found that footballers had 3.5 times the death rate from neurodegenerative conditions than the general population.

In a statement released on Friday evening, PFA chairman Ben Purkiss said: “Science has been developing quickly in this area, and we need to make an urgent intervention based on the evidence that is available now.

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“A reduction of heading in training is a practical and straightforward step. We will be engaging with members, former members and their families to work on this area within the scope of the PFA’s new advisory group, where decisions will be made on the basis of expert advice.”

England 1966 World Cup-winner Nobby Stiles passed away last month following a long battle against the disease.

His former England team-mates Jack Charlton, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson also battled against dementia before their deaths.

Charlton’s brother, Sir Bobby, has recently been diagnosed with the illness.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor added: “The PFA and PFA Charity will continue our commitment, alongside The FA, to fund research in this area.

“However, in the short-term, football cannot carry on as it is. There is a big issue here, and based on the increasing evidence available, it is clear we need to take immediate steps to monitor and reduce heading within training.”

More to follow…

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