Soccer players' union in England wants reduction in heading
LONDON (AP) — The union representing soccer players in England called on Friday for balls to be headed less in training amid growing concerns about brain injury diseases among former professionals.
The decision by the Professional Footballers’ Association followed a meeting of its management committee which assessed research into dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.
“Science has been developing quickly in this area, and we need to make an urgent intervention based on the evidence that is available now,” PFA chairman Ben Purkiss said.
“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.”
It was announced this month that Manchester United and England great Bobby Charlton was diagnosed with dementia. In July, the 83-year-old Bobby’s brother and fellow England World Cup winner, Jack, died after being diagnosed with the disease. Nobby Stiles, who was also part of England's only World Cup-winning side, died after battling dementia.
“In the short-term, football cannot carry on as it is,” PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said. “There is a big issue here, and based on the increasing evidence available."
Research published in 2019 by the University of Glasgow found former male professional players had a 3.5 times higher rate of death from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. In absolute terms, that risk remained relatively small — 1.7% among former players and 0.5% for the comparison group. Former players also were more likely to be prescribed dementia medicines than the others were.