A local academic based in NSW has conducted world-first research in finding out what impact that heading in the game has for young players.
Dr Kerry Peek has found that using a lighter ball will be beneficial for improving heading technique, with a lower risk of head and neck injuries – where she is highly regarded in aiming to reduce this.
Peek is a senior lecturer in physiotherepy at the University of Sydney and has worked with elite athletes in football, rugby union and Formula 1 in both the UK and Australia.
Additionally, she was invited to present to the UEFA Medical Committee about the drafting of heading guidelines released in May 2020, as well as presentations on heading for the International Olympic Committee World Conference related to the Prevention of Injury and Illness in Sport next year.
Peek leads the research on various scientific papers on heading, which has received support funding from both FIFA and Sports Medicine Australia. The latest research has centred around ball characteristics and the use of a neck strengthening exercise program to reduce head acceleration of heading by youth players. It’s recommended from the research that using light balls (or those with less pressure) should be included in training when heading is completed.
Peek recommends a series of relevant neck exercises that would take less than two minutes to do for young players, all without additional equipment.
“Whilst heading remains an integral part of football, our goal is to make it as safe as possible for all players, regardless of age, experience or playing level,” Peek said to Football NSW.
“We hope that by engaging with players, coaches and clubs we can implement a number of low risk strategies which will potentially benefit millions of players worldwide.
“These strategies include adding neck exercises to current injury reduction exercise programs (such as the FIFA 11+ and FIFA 11+ kids) as well as teaching good heading technique using a lighter ball.
“I wish to thank Peter Hugg and Football NSW for their ongoing support.”
Hugg, Football NSW’s Head of Football, applauded Peek and her team on their efforts to assess ways of making the game safer with important research, with the collaborative approach taken throughout both study and ongoing work.
“To have a well renown University and an internationally recognized researcher in Kerry and her team of students, coaches, neuropsychologists, biomechanist, a representative from the ball industry and the sport itself at Member Federation, Association and Club level, come together and collaborate is testimony to what is possible when we work towards a common objective,” Hugg said.
“The fact that it is about increasing player safety and minimising the risk of injury in the game is even more pleasing.”