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National League North club host first ever match with NO heading allowed

National League North club Spennymoor Town are set to host the first ever match with NO heading allowed throughout the game.

The country’s first adult football match with heading restrictions will take place in County Durham at Brewery Field ground.

During the first half players will only be able to head the ball in the box and no heading will be allowed in the second half – instead a breach would be given as a foul.

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The game is being organised by brain charity Head for Change, with researchers wanting to look at whether the match could be played without heading and reduce the risk of dementia for players, along with the local Solan Connor Fawcett Family Cancer Trust.

Head for Change was created by Dr Judith Gates after her husband, former Middlesbrough footballer Bill Gates, was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Bill and Judith Gates met as pupils at Spennymoor Grammar School and he then launched a his playing career with the town’s club.

Among their connections to the town includes Moors’ chief executive Brad Groves who used to work in the warehouse of Mr Gates’ sports store business.

The couple’s friend Debra Swinburn is a director at the club and also a trustee of the cancer trust, and all three organisations came together to arrange the match.

Dr Gates said: “The area that we are looking for money for is research because we want to look at investigating, not just the causes of the sports-related neurodegenerative disease, but in vivo diagnosis and potentially a cure.

“I’d like to invite everybody along on Sunday the 26th of September – kick off is at 3pm, the gates will be open from 12 noon – if you want to come along and see a unique experiment, if you want to come along and think further on how to protect the players and protect the game, then we welcome you to the Brewery Field.”

The Northern Echo:
National League North club host first ever match with NO heading allowed

Mark Solan founded the Spennymoor-based cancer trust to support THOSE affected by cancer in memory of his mother, grandmother and the relatives of close friends.

Mr Solan said: “We’ve both got genuine reasons for having a charity.

“The difference, obviously, is mine is something that happened to me a long time ago whereas sadly, Bill and Judith are living with it now.”

He adds that around 25 ex-professionals are lined up for the Trust’s fifth charity match – making it the best line-up they’ve ever had and he said Head for Change has some “massive legends” behind them. For more information about Head for Change visit https://headforchange.org.uk/

England became the first country to impose heading limits on professional players when they were restricted to 10 ‘higher force’ headers per week in training. That has been introduced for the 2021-22 campaign as a response to the dementia crisis.

‘Higher force’ headers are those from a pass of more than 35 metres (38 yards), crosses, corners and free-kicks. 

For amateurs, the FA’s guidance is that players should not practise more than 10 headers of any type per week.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “These measures have been developed following studies with coaches and medics and represent a cautious approach whilst we learn more.

“We are committed to further medical research to gain an understanding of any risks within football, in the meantime this reduces a potential risk factor.

“Overall it is important to remember that the overwhelming medical evidence is that football and other sports have positive impacts on both mental and physical health.”

A landmark study of 7,500 former professional footballers published two years ago found they were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from dementia than non-players in the same age range.

This comes almost 20 years after former England striker Jeff Astle died at the age of 59, having developed dementia.

Lenny Woodard, a former rugby union and rugby league player for Wales, suffered multiple concussions during his career and was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 45.

Meanwhile, Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson, who was diagnosed with dementia aged 42, will donate his brain to scientists researching brain trauma.

PFA chief executive Maheta Molango and Oxford United player John Mousinho will also donate their brains.

Molango, who played professional football in England with Brighton, Lincoln and Oldham, said: “While being very mindful of taking immediate steps to protect current players, in the long-term ongoing research is vital to enable us to be able to answer more questions and best support members.

“We have been listening and engaging with leading academic experts, and they tell us that brain donation is a key piece to the puzzle in understanding CTE.

“We are excited to join a global network of the most prominent researchers in this area.”

“Brain donation is an intensely personal decision for former players and their families,” Mousinho added.

“However, I have been inspired by the team at the Concussion Legacy Foundation and The Jeff Astle Foundation, and I have decided to commit my brain to future research in the hope that it can help play a part in protecting future generations.

“The Concussion Legacy Foundation has a strong ethos of supporting families and everyone affected by brain injury, and they are values we share at the PFA.”

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