Following a year in which — due to monetary reasons and monetary reasons alone — a full football season was compressed into eight months, player welfare has been a hot-button issue, with Jürgen Klopp one of the louder voices in the sport clamouring for the footballing associations to begin protecting their players rather than their pockets, or face the long-term consequences of reduced player longevity.
An angle that has generally been getting less press than the wear and tear caused by fixture list congestion, is the issue of brain health. Many footballers struggle with long-term health problems associated with head trauma, and last year, the footballing associations implemented concussion substitutions for the first time in a long overdue bid to address the issue.
Starting this season, the Premier League will be going one step further, imposing a limit on the number of “high force headers” will be allowed to do in training.
“The preliminary studies identified the varying forces involved in heading a football, which were provided to a cross-football working group to help shape the guidance,” a joint statement from the FA, Premier League, EFL, PFA, and LMA read.
“Based on those early findings, which showed the majority of headers involve low forces, the initial focus of the guidance [for professional football] will be on headers that involve higher forces. These are typically headers following a long pass (more than 35m) or from crosses, corners and free-kicks.
“It will be recommended that a maximum of 10 higher force headers are carried out in any training week,” the statement continued.
“This recommendation is provided to protect player welfare and will be reviewed regularly as further research is undertaken to understand more regarding the impact of heading in football.”
Although it may sound silly at first, studies have shown that repeated microtrauma is likely at least as damaging to the brain as more dramatic concussive trauma, and we applaud any policy that not only looks to improve player welfare during their playing career, but also their quality of life once they hang up their boots.