PFA calls for immediate changes to heading in training

The Professional Footballers’ Association has called for an “urgent intervention” to reduce heading in training amid growing concerns surrounding football and dementia.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor says the sport “cannot carry on as it is” as research into the link between heading the ball and the neurodegenerative disease continues.

The issue has been brought back into focus following the deaths this year of Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles, who had been living with dementia.

Both the Football Association and the PFA have this week been accused of not doing enough to support ex-players or acting to protect players by introducing greater restrictions on heading in training.

But the players’ union this evening issued a bold statement in which it called for immediate action.

PFA chairman Ben Purkiss said: “Science has been developing quickly in this area, and we need to make an urgent intervention based on the evidence that is available now.

1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles passed away last month following a long battle with dementia.

“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.”

The PFA says it is calling on the support of clubs, leagues and the FA to create a coordinated strategy to measure, monitor and adapt training.

Taylor added: “The PFA and PFA Charity will continue our commitment, alongside the FA, to fund research in this area.

“However, in the short-term, football cannot carry on as it is. There is a big issue here, and based on the increasing evidence available, it is clear we need to take immediate steps to monitor and reduce heading within training.”

Lawyers have confirmed that an action has begun on behalf of former players suffering with the neurodegenerative disease, who plan to seek compensation from organisations understood to include the FA.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said that although the FIELD study, which the FA and PFA co-funded, established an increased risk for players of dying from neurodegenerative disease, he says it is “not entirely clear cut” what causes that increased risk.

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