Scottish Football Heading Ban Day Before and After Matches

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LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott
Legally reviewed by: LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott In: Industrial Disease, Personal Injury

Football Heading Ban Before and After Game Day

Professional footballers in Scotland are to receive a football heading ban in training the day before and after a game.

Clubs are also being told to limit exercises involving repeated heading to one session a week.

The new guidelines come as a result of new research from Glasgow University that shows former footballers are three and a half times more likely to die from brain disease.

Experts believe there is a link between repeatedly heading a football and brain disease.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) already has some rules in place regarding headers. This includes a ban on headers in training for under 12-year-olds.

Scotland was the first country in the world to have a single set of concussion guidelines for all sports. The campaign came with the slogan “If in doubt, sit them out.”

The new guidelines are to be introduced after consultation with 50 clubs across the professional men’s and women’s game in Scotland and after an SFA survey of clubs to gauge heading trends.

In the meantime, clubs are being advised to monitor heading activity in training in an effort to reduce the overall effects of constant contact.

Read more about head injuries in sports. 

Football Heading Ban to Reduce Memory Impairment Cases

Dr. John MacLean has been an SFA doctor for more than 20 years. He was involved in the 2019 field study that found a link between dementia and former professional players.

“While the research continues to develop, what we already know about heading and its effects on the brain suggests that there is measurable memory impairment lasting 24-48 hours following a series of headers and that brain-related proteins can be detected in blood samples for a short time after heading,” he said.

“Brain scan changes have also been reported in footballers that may be linked to heading.”

“Therefore, the goal is to reduce any potential cumulative effect of heading by reducing the overall exposure to heading in training.”

“We’ve taken our time with this because we wanted to really engage with stakeholders across football,” Dr. MacLean said.

“We wanted to determine just how much heading is taking place in training to get a baseline idea.”

“Then there was the engagement process with players, through PFA Scotland but also with the clubs, the managers, and coaches through the Scottish FA.”

“It was all about collective responsibility and safeguarding player health and well-being.”

Women at More Risk Than Men from Heading Injuries

Hibs women’s team defender Joelle Murray told BBC Scotland she supported the move but said it was a tough balance as the day before match day was when teams worked on set pieces.

“We certainly can’t avoid the findings and the research, but we will need to restructure our training week,” she said.

“You don’t want players to get out of that natural habit, that natural instinct of heading the ball. You wouldn’t want that to impact those scenarios on a match day so it’s trying to find the right balance.”

“There have been so many former players who are now, unfortunately, suffering dementia because of what we think has been an excessive amount of heading during their playing career.”

Research has also shown that women are at more risk from dementia from heading the ball than men.

“During training, I probably do think about it more,” Murray said. “The girls will laugh because I maybe duck out of a cross or a ball into the box but certainly come match day it certainly doesn’t enter my mind. You naturally just head the ball to clear it.”

“If you don’t train that way then maybe on match day you’ll see more play being on the ground as opposed to in the air so it might have a positive impact both ways.”

Findings After the Deaths of High-Profile Footballers

Andy Gould, SFA’s chief football officer states that there is already a great deal of data around in-match heading. However, he added, the latest research has been “invaluable in understanding the extent of heading load within the training environment.”

He adds, “I am grateful to the clubs, managers, and players for providing us with the information and perspectives required to facilitate an informed and data-driven discussion which has culminated in the publication of guidelines designed to protect the safety and wellbeing of our players.”

Earlier this year, the FA in England introduced guidelines for clubs that limit players to 10 high-impact headers per week, during training sessions.

This all comes in the light of several high-profile footballers who died from dementia. This includes former Celtic captain Billy McNeill and the former England World Cup winner and Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton.

The football heading ban aims to reduce the brain injuries that a lifetime of heading can create for current and future players.

How Our Solicitors Can Help

Here at AWH, our experienced solicitors can provide the support needed to help you with your case.

Because heading in sports has only fairly recently been explored, there are a number of new legal considerations. Our Solicitor Apprentice, Craig Johnson, has been considering his views on the subject, having carried out extensive research. He states that, ‘from a legal perspective, a duty of care must be established by law for an action to be brought against a potential Defendant…but who owes the duty of care to the players? Is it their clubs who employ them, their medical staff who may have examined them, or is it the regulatory authority – the FA? Furthermore, what would constitute a breach of that duty?’

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered from a brain injury due to playing sports, then get in contact with one of our experts and we can help you determine whether you’re eligible for a claim. It is important to get the compensation you deserve if you or someone you love has suffered.

Get in touch today for expert help and advice.

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