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Women footballers call for reduced heading following new research

Women football players are calling for heading limits in training and during matches after research finds female players are twice as likely to suffer from concussion.

Women footballers call for reduced heading following new research

The research was conducted by Censuswide, on behalf of the Drake Foundation and looked into the attitudes of recreational players following the revelations over football's link with neurodegenerative diseases and rugby players taking legal action over their dementia diagnoses.

Parliamentary evidence from Dr Willie Stewart, who unearthed that footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of a brain disease, told MPs that women were at double the risk of suffering from concussion through sport.

The survey found that an overwhelming 84 per cent of women players want to see The FA introduce heading limits in training and a further 72 per cent want to see restrictions introduced to matches as well. Additionally, the survey uncovered that 68 per cent of men wanted to see heading limits within training, however, only 44 per cent believed that there should be restrictions in games.

Currently, there are no differences in the rules between men's and women's football.

Perhaps a more disturbing discovery from the research was that 60 per cent of women footballers claimed to have returned to the same match or training session after suffering from a concussion, only highlighted further through research into rugby that showed a quarter of players had continued in a match where they had had a concussion.

Testimonies were featured throughout the survey, with one player revealing that she had been given an early onset dementia diagnosis.

"Currently, I have only divulged this to my family, as I have struggled with the diagnosis," they said. Another claimed: "I rested for six days, but my coach requested that I play as the squad was short of numbers, despite my reluctance and against medical advice that I initially received, I felt pressured by my coach to not let the team down, so I played."

Rachael Burford, founder of the Girls Rugby Club, as well as an England Rugby World Cup winner in 2014, added: "If it’s pretty conclusive that women are twice as likely to get head injuries, why aren’t we doing more specific work for women?

"It makes no sense that despite the increased risk to girls and women, there remains a gap in the medical support provided. What we’ve seen from our survey is that, particularly at grassroots level where there are not always physios available, girls are not following the correct return-to-play protocols, they’re often left to their own devices and are feeling forgotten about.”

Author: Jake Wilkin