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FA study confirms link between heading a ball and degenerative brain disease

Scientific research has revealed that repeatedly heading a football does increase the risk of degenerative brain disease.

The latest FOCUS study carried out by the University of Nottingham proves beyond doubt the dangers of heading a ball.

The Football Association (FA) and Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) commissioned the report after several high-profile instances of former players being diagnosed with dementia.

‌Scientists investigated heading frequency and the risk of cognitive impairment in retired male professional players.

The findings represent further evidence of a direct link between repeated heading and brain impairment in later life.

Former players who headed the ball between six and 15 times in a match were found to be 2.71 times more likely to suffer brain disease than those who headed a ball less often.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “This study is another step in understanding any potential link between neurogenerative disorders and former professional footballers.

‌”As we work to gain a greater understanding of the medical research, we will continue to take a leading role as the governing body in reviewing the safety of our game and addressing potential risk factors which may be associated with football.

“These include the removal of heading from training for primary school age children and recommendations on limits for all ages. We are also trialling the complete removal of heading in U12 football.”

PFA chief executive Maheta Molango added: “This study supports existing evidence highlighting footballers’ increased vulnerability to cognitive decline in their later years.

“It will continue to be vitally important to build the knowledge base and understanding of this relationship so that effective action and interventions can take place.

“That means real-world changes in training practices and matchday protocols to protect the wellbeing of players, but also the ways in which former players can be supported.”

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