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PFA calls for reduction of heading in training due to dementia fears

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

20:17 20 Nov 2020

The Professional Footballers’ Association in England has called for a reduction of heading in training.

The union believes it will be a "proactive and practical" intervention, while more research is carried out into links with dementia.

A number of former players, including five members of England's 1966 World Cup winning team, have been diagnosed with the disease.

The PFA say, "A game-wide strategy is urgently needed for dealing with dementia and neurodegenerative diseases in football."

Former Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton, and his ex-England teammate Nobby Stiles both spent the final years of their lives dealing with dementia.

While Bobby Charlton's family recently revealed the Manchester United legend is battling the illness.

Another 1966 alumnus, Geoff Hurst said this week he'd be willing to donate his brain to dementia research after he passes.

He's backed a ban on heading for young players, saying, "I think stopping at that young age, when the brain has not matured, must be looked at. I don’t think it would destroy the enjoyment of kids’ football or grassroots football."

The PFA "are calling on the support of clubs, leagues and The FA 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."

The union's 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.

"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."

The game's lawmakers, FIFPRO, claim more "robust evidence" is required, before they make a judgement on altering heading's role in football.

PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor said, "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."

‘There’s nothing left of him’ | Chris Sutton on his father’s dementia battle

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