The Football association continues to revise and update head-impact guidance for football players of all ages, adjusting policies and recommendations as new data becomes available. The evidence-based approach continues to improve as more and more studies on matters like concussions in football are published. The following are some of the more notable studies.
July 2021 High-Impact Policy Based on Header Research
The most recent revision to heading recommendations came in July 2021, and was based on a study that looked at the relationship between headers and concussions in football. The study specifically focused on high-impact headers, which include headers from crosses, corners and passes over 30 metres.
Based on the study’s findings, the Football Association adjusted its policy for training of both professional and amateur players. Professional players are permitted no more than 10 high-impact headers per training week, and that number may be adjusted for gender, age, position and the number of headers a player typically does in a game. Amateur plates are discouraged form any high-impact headers during training, although they’re allowed at both levels during matches.
Permanent Substitutions Studies in Multiple Leagues
Football differs from rugby and cricket, in that football currently doesn’t allow permanent concussion substitutions in all (or most) leagues. Researchers are investigating how a change to this policy might affect player health and the sport, though.
Permanent concussions substitution trials first began in the Premier League in February 2021, and they’ve been extended through the 2021-2022 season due to the reduced matches being placed. These trials were extended to reserve and youth matches in October 2021, and they’re also being conducted in the Barclays Football Association Women’s Super League, Football Association Women’s Championship and Emirates Football Association Cup.
HEADING Study on Concussions in Football
The Drake Foundation’s HEADING Study is perhaps the most well-known study. The study directly examines the impacts that football concussions have on players, and it’s been promoted by both England Manager Garteth Southgate and retired Arsenal player Tony Adams.
The study is also one of the most expansive, looking at 300 retired players age 50 or older. The focus is the relationship between brain health in retired players and concussions they sustained while playing.
The Drake Football Study
The Drake Football Study is a longitudinal study of football players that spans 10 years, primarily the years shortly before and shortly after retirement. The study is fairly comprehensive, and examines cognition, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and mental health impacts of playing at the professional level. More than 200 players across the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden are participating.
The Drake Football Concussion Study
The Drake Football Concussion Study’s goal is to develop an objective, rapid and reliable way of detecting concussions in football matches, and there may be use in other applications such as the military.
The study is tracing microRNA that’s present in blood, urine and saliva. The microRNA might be indicative of a concussion or other head trauma, and a way of detecting it quickly could be developed.
Research Continues To Be Ongoing
Research into the impact that concussions have on football players continues to be ongoing, both as current studies are conducted and as new ones are designed. As data from various studies becomes available, the policies regarding concussions will improve. A lot of progress has already been made and there will be more in the future.