From the upcoming 2021/22 season, UK footballing associations will introduce heading guidance across every level of the professional and amateur game.
The new guidance will be specifically focused on training sessions where the majority of heading occurs. The guidance has been designed to meet the requirements of each level of English football, having been agreed upon by the FA, Premier League, EFL, the PFA and the LMA.
As a result, the guidance will be applied by clubs in the Premier League, EFL, Women’s Super League, Women’s Championship, the National League system, the Women’s Football Pyramid Tiers 3 and below, as well as grassroots and the England national teams.
Following multiple studies undertaken in recent months on behalf of a subgroup of the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultative Committee (PFNCC), the changes were made priority ahead of the upcoming seasons.
The preliminary studies identified the varying forces involved in heading the ball, which were provided to a cross-football working group to help shape the guidance.
Based on those early findings, which showed the majority of headers involve low forces, the initial focus of the guidance will be on headers that involve higher forces. Headers which involve higher forces include those which follow from a long pass (more than 35 metres), cross, corners or free-kick.
It will be recommended that a maximum of 10 higher-force headers are carried out in any training week. This recommendation is provided to protect player welfare and will be reviewed regularly as further research is undertaken to understand more regarding the impact of heading in football.
England Football Association Chief Executive Officer Mark Bullingham acknowledged the importance of applying new guidelines across all of English football.
“We already have the most comprehensive guidelines in the world for youth football and now we are introducing, in partnership with the other football bodies, the most comprehensive adult football guidelines anywhere. Our heading guidance now reaches across all players, at all levels of the game,” he said.
“These measures have been developed following studies with coaches and medics and represent a cautious approach while we learn more. We are committed to further medical research to gain an understanding of any risks within football, in the meantime this reduces a potential risk factor.
“Overall, it is important to remember that the overwhelming medical evidence is that football and other sports have positive impacts on both mental and physical health.”