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New rules to ban heading the ball in training before and after a professional football game

  • 28.11.2022
  • EmmaArnold
  • Personal-injury
  • dementia Headway concussion football head injury in sport scotland scottish football association

New rules are being introduced in Scottish football to ban heading the ball in training before and after a professional game.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is to introduce the new guidelines to prevent players from heading the ball too frequently following research the likelihood of them dying from brain disease is increased.

Glasgow University found that former footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from a brain disease and linked this to repetitive heading of the ball.

The FA in England have already introduced guidelines earlier this year which limits footballers to 10 high impact headers per week during training. The advice comes following a survey of 50 clubs across professional men and women players in Scotland to gauge trends in heading the ball and are being asked to monitor heading activity.

Research shows there is measurable memory impairment lasting 24-48 hours following a series of headers, and that brain-related proteins can be detected in blood samples for a short time after heading. This is why it has been recommended to avoid heading the ball the day before and the day after a game in order to cover these timeframes.

Luke Griggs, Interim Chief Executive at brain injury charity Headway, said:

“The new guidelines are a positive step forwards in terms of how football protects the brain health of players. The link between repetitive head impacts and degenerative neurological conditions is now too well established for football to ignore. We look forward to learning more about how the impact of this proactive initiative will be monitored as part of the sport’s efforts to safeguard the short and long-term brain health of players.”

The SFA has already set a ban on heading the ball in training for the under-12 age group after noticing the effect head contact with the ball can have on older individuals.

The Scottish government were also the first in the world to introduce a dedicated campaign to raise awareness of head injury in sport and the impact of concussion on the brain, with their ‘If in doubt, sit it out’ campaign.

One member of the campaign board was Peter Robinson whose son, Ben, sadly passed away at the age of 14 whilst playing rugby due to Second Impact Syndrome. He and others on the Scottish board aimed to raise awareness of the risks of head injuries in sport which has now progressed into these new guidelines.

Gary Herbert, Partner in personal injury, said:

“This is an interesting approach to take by the SFA in attempting to reduce the risk of heading the ball by having ‘header-free days’.  Whether this reduces the number of headers, or just moves them to another day of the week, will be an interesting question.  It will be useful for the scientists to follow up the effect of these rules to see what difference they will make in practice.”

Gary Herbert is a Partner in personal injury here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about a head injury in sport or indeed any other aspect of personal injury and wish to speak to Gary or any other member of the team, please contact us on 0800 027 2557 or contact Gary directly.

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