The Scottish Football Association (SFA) has decided to limit professional footballers’ heading game to one training session per week to reduce the risk of long-term brain damage.
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Players will no longer be allowed to play headers the day before and the day after a championship day, the restrictions not applying during matches. The new guidelines were taken after the publication of a study “historical” from the University of Glasgow which revealed an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease in former players.
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“This landmark study by the University of Glasgow […] was a radical turning point in the way of thinking about rules”explained the director general of the federation, Ian Maxwell.
Memory problems for 24 to 48 hours
All clubs in Scottish professional football have been involved in putting the new legislation in place alongside the federation. They were also asked to monitor the practice of heading in training to reduce its effects on the brain.
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“Our knowledge of heading and its effects on the brain suggests that memory impairment, ranging from 24 to 48 hours, may occur after a series of headings”added Dr John MacLean, the SFA’s chief medical officer.
This is not the first time that the Scottish federation has acted to reduce the risk of brain damage among players. It has banned heading play in the youth categories, like its English and Northern Irish counterparts.
Football’s governing bodies, unlike rugby which took up the subject several years ago, have often been the target of criticism for their reluctance to change the rules after new research emerged on the brain damage suffered by players.