Dementia in football: PFA advocates for a reduction in heading of balls during training

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The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) is advocating for the reduction in the heading of balls during training to reduce cases of dementia among footballers.

Dementia is a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment. Dementia can also be said to be a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Most cases of the health condition are not curable, they can only be managed and could be a lifelong health condition.

Since England’s 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles died of Dementia in October 2020, the health issue has attracted a lot of attention. The death of the football icon who suffered from the health condition for a long time before he died has caused critics to urge clubs to review their training sessions.

Before the PFA got involved in the call for a reduction in the heading of balls during training which is believed to be a cause of Dementia among players, the football manager of Chelsea football club, Frank Lampard, had said he would review his club’s training regime due to Dementia.

“I think we can work up the pyramid. Already, I’m certainly considering it in terms of how we train here because of the seriousness of the issue”, Lampard said on Thursday.

In the same vein, PFA stated on Friday that a game-wide strategy to combat dementia and neurodegenerative diseases in football is urgently required. The association noted that though scientific research has not proven that the heading of balls causes Dementia as being speculated, a short-term measure has to be put in place to reduce the rate of players being affected by the health condition.

Dementia in football: PFA advocates for a reduction in heading of balls during training
Former England and Manchester United star Nobby Stiles.

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

“A reduction of heading into 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 based on expert advice.

“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 the training.”

Besides Nobby Stiles, former English football icons like Jack Charlton, Martin Peters, and Ray Wilson also died after battling with dementia.

Currently, England and Manchester United’s legend, Sir Bobby Charlton is battling with the health condition but it has not to be confirmed that the elder-stateman developed the health condition due to his football activities in his playing days.

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