FIFA under fire from experts for continuing to put players at risk of brain damage


Footballers are at risk of brain damage due to FIFA’s continued failure to provide title guidelines, experts have told the MoS.

The governing body has been accused of “procastinating” while other federations have issued advice intended to protect players from the risk of dementia and related illnesses.

The FA announced a year ago that adult footballers should be limited to 10 high-impact headers a week while training. He also said the title should not be introduced in youth training until the Under-14 level.

The FA have issued guidelines to protect players from the risk of dementia and related illnesses

UEFA, meanwhile, released a small set of recommendations aimed at limiting the number of headers among underage players in June 2020.

But FIFA has yet to follow suit with similar guidance and told this newspaper it stands by its position that more research is needed to link the head to brain damage.

Luke Griggs, deputy chief executive of the brain injury charity Headway, said the lack of action by the governing body indicated a failure of leadership. “Football’s continued procrastination when it comes to improving the way football treats brain injury is frustrating,” Griggs said.

“It’s been 20 years since a coroner ruled that Jeff Astle, the former England player, died of a work-related illness and it’s only in recent years that football has started to gradually fund research. Meanwhile, the families of former players diagnosed with early onset dementia are left with no support or answers.

A coroner found ex-footballer Jeff Astle (above) died in 2002 of an 'industrial illness'

A coroner found ex-footballer Jeff Astle (above) died in 2002 of an ‘industrial illness’

Asked about its position on the risks posed by the header this week, FIFA highlighted previous answers it had provided.

In October, he told the MoS“While the welfare of all players remains FIFA’s priority, FIFA believes that further research is needed in this area to establish a definite link between head and brain injury.”

A spokesperson pointed to an interview in which Andy Massey, FIFA’s medical director, addressed the issue. “The bottom line is that the header is part of football,” Massey said, “and if there is a risk associated with the header, we have to be open and let people decide for themselves whether: a) they want to play football or b) they want to direct the ball during football It’s very simple.

“We need to think about the younger age groups who may not be able to make that informed, consensual decision and protect them.”

Published in July last year, Football Association guidelines stated that the title should be “low priority” in training up to the age of 16. From then on, players should be limited to the same limit as adults of one session per week, with 10 “higher strength” headers per player.

The FA have defined a header as that of a cross, corner, free kick or pass from over 35 yards.

The UEFA guidelines, which were published in June 2020, did not stipulate a cap limit but recommended reducing drills “as much as possible” and especially among young players.

They also suggested how to implement this improvement, exemplifying smaller pitch sizes, smaller goals and fewer players per team. He further stated that coaches should be made aware of the importance of gradually introducing heading drills as players progress through the age groups.

Griggs suggested FIFA should follow the FA’s lead, but added that mere guidelines were not enough to protect players from developing brain problems later in life.

“The principle of reducing or delaying exposure to repeated head impacts is sound,” Griggs said. “We therefore support the principle of introducing cap limits, in particular for the younger age groups.

Sportsmail's dementia campaign was launched last November and has received support

sports mailThe dementia campaign was launched last November and has received support

“The problem is how these guidelines are presented and ‘sold’ to those playing and coaching the game.

“We need more than just guidelines, protocols or posters on locker room walls. Without education, you will not gain membership in any level of the game.

A FIFA spokesperson insisted that the issue of dementia and related illnesses was a priority for them.

“FIFA has made the fight against brain damage in football a key objective of its medical subdivision,” the spokesperson said.

“He is currently studying research in all areas of brain health globally and in regular contact with leading research centers and experts to develop guidelines on a variety of medical topics to share the latest findings. with its member associations.


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