In: Industrial Disease

The Premier League are questioning Tottenham Hotspur, after Nuno Espirito Santo has revealed that the club are ignoring the guidance on implementing heading limits in training.

What are the recommendations?

The recommendations that have been circulated amongst football clubs states that footballers at professional level should be limited to 10 high-force headers per week. The heading limit guidelines for this season were agreed between the FA, Premier League, EFL, the PFA and LMA, but it is not being policed by any of those authorities. However, Nuno has also stated that Tottenham are not counting headers in training and further sources have said that they are not alone in ignoring the guidance. Nuno had previously complained about Tottenham’s defending from set-pieces this season at a pre-match press conference. Asked about how they can improve at defending with the heading limits in place, he said: ‘That’s why we have training sessions without nobody seeing us…I’m concerned with the situation of dementia and what heading the ball can cause. It’s a big concern for us but it’s part of the game. Honestly I will not lie to you. I don’t count how many times our players head the ball. Maybe I will get myself in trouble for this. But football is jumping, heading, it’s part of the game.’

This news comes along with a ground-breaking game that took place yesterday at Spennymoor Toen’s Brewery Field that included these heading restrictions. Played between former professional footballers, the first half saw heading only allowed in the box, and in the second half no heading was allowed at all. It is a new experiment organised by brain health charity Head for Change and Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust, in the hope that it will raise awareness for dementia in football. Currently, club staff and players themselves are expected to implement the restrictions themselves, which campaigners have described as impractical. The high-force headers that are being restricted are classed as those that follow a pass of more than 35 metres, crosses, corners and free-kicks.

What are the risks?

The main brain injury that sports players may be at risk of is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This is a neurodegenerative disease which causes severe and irreparable brain damage as a result of repeated head injuries. A number of recorded cases in ex-professional footballers were initially attributed to a heavy leather football, but it has now been determined that even the synthetic footballs that are used in modern football can also cause just as much damage to the skull. Generally, the symptoms do not begin until years after the injuries and they can include behavioural problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking. The disease can ultimately result in dementia. Rates of CTE have been found to be about 30% among those with a history of multiple head injuries – including professional, semi-professional and amateur sports players. Additionally, it has been found that female football players are more at risk than their male counterparts.

If you have been affected by any form of repetitive head injury while playing sports, then a chat with one of our specialist solicitors will allow you to understand where you stand.

Read more on our head injuries in football page.

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