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A lack of development to protect player welfare?

On the anniversary of the 22-month research studying investigating the effects heading a football has on the brain, those in the game claim there has been no developments to protect the welfare of players.

The study, funded by the Football Association (FA) at the University of Glasgow, found that footballers are three time more likely to die from dementia due to heading a football. Clubs and sporting organisations can potentially face multi-million-pound lawsuits if players are not protected from head injuries, says a leading lawyer.

Ipek Tugcu, a solicitor and Headway mentor has said, “I’m disappointed at how little has changed in the last year.

“The research is indisputable, linking repetitive head trauma to increased risk of neurodegenerative disease such as dementia.

"What are governing bodies waiting for?

“Nobody is suggesting that heading a ball should be banned. The main issue is header training, as players often do this for hours, day after day. Limiting that would make huge strides in protecting player welfare.”

In the last 12 months, the FA have only introduced a ban on heading in under-12s football during training sessions. Yet, those who’ve lost a loved one have urged for new rules to be implemented so others are not left with devastation and ruin.

Former West Bromwich Albion striker, Jeff Astle passed away in 2002 from what the coroner described as an “industrial disease”. His daughter, Dawn, says, “My overall feeling is that I am staggered even though my own research and instinct was always that there was a serious problem,

“We just wanted to see that football cared enough to find out the scale of the problem, to do the right thing and be there for these people when they need them most. Whatever they do next, it must be across all parts of the game. And these players who have suffered dementia must not be a statistic – they must never be forgotten.”

At the time the study was published, last year, Mark Bullingham, The FA’s Chief Executive, said, “Our research shows the number of aerial challenges has already been reduced significantly over the years as we have changed to smaller pitches and possession-based football,

“However, as new evidence comes to light, we will continue to monitor and reassess all aspects of the game.”

Yet, many can argue since then nothing has changed.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) have met with the Concussion Expert Group (CEG) which consists of a range of members, including, medical concussion experts, competition organisers and team doctors, to name a few. Discussing how the laws of the game can be adapted if a scenario occurs when a player experiences concussion during a match. The introduction of an “additional permanent substitution” rule and testing was discussed with the group agreeing to a “if in doubt, take them out” protocol, to ensure the welfare of players is protected.

Fears surrounding the welfare of players grew in August when four ex-footballers died in the space of a week, all from dementia. John Talbut, Barry Pierce, Tommy Carroll and Mike Tindall suffered from the deadly disease suggesting action should be taken to protect the welfare of current and future players. However, action is yet to be taken, something of which The Jeff Astle Foundation campaign for.

Author: James Parker