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Non league side become the first club to limit heading in training

One particular non league side have managed to become the first club to limit heading in training over concerns about the use of it.

Eastern Counties League Premier Division outfit Wroxham, based in Norfolk, have prepared a proposal for temporary substitutions as they urge clubs to follow their lead.

Plans are being put in place to try and tackle dementia within football by limiting heading in training for their first-team players.

The non-league side are calling on other clubs to follow their lead, want the Norfolk FA to back a seven-point charter, and have also stopped youth teams practising headers.

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Sportsmail wants heading at all levels to be limited to a maximum of 20 headers per session as well as a minimum of 48 hours between sessions. Sportsmail also believes temporary substitutions should be sanctioned immediately.

Wroxham chairman Lee Robson said as the club chooses to limit heading in training: ‘Listening to Chris Sutton talk so lovingly about his father and the effect his dad’s illness had on the whole family moved me to tears. It also made me angry.

‘As a trade unionist, it amazes me that people have to fight so hard to ensure they don’t get killed and hurt by what they do for love or for a living.

‘It should not be that difficult for the authorities to make the changes to keep people safe. If they won’t, then we as clubs can start the process. Together, we are the FA.’

Sutton’s sons, named Ollie, George and Harry, are part of the Wroxham family, as is ex-Norwich striker Grant Holt. They say their facilities are available for any research regarding dementia in football.

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The PFA is calling for restrictions on heading in training, following concerns over the number of former players suffering from dementia.

The Professional Footballers’ Association says a game-wide strategy is urgently needed for dealing with dementia and neurodegenerative diseases in football.

Clubs, leagues and the Football Association are being asked to create a coordinated strategy to measure, monitor and adapt training, identifying protections that can make a difference to the long-term health of players.

The FA will invest in research to work out whether there is a link between heading the ball and brain injury diseases. The governing body’s guidance is that children under the age of 12 shouldn’t be heading the ball.

In 2019, the PFA Charity-funded study, FIELD, found that footballers had 3.5 times the death rate from neurodegenerative conditions than the general population.

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In a statement released on Friday evening, PFA chairman Ben Purkiss said: “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 in 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 on the basis of expert advice.”

Nobby Stiles, who won the 1966 World Cup, passed away in October following a long battle against the disease.

His former team-mates Martin Peters, Jack Charlton and Ray Wilson also battled against dementia before sadly passing away.

Charlton’s brother, Sir Bobby, has recently been diagnosed with the illness.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor added: “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 training.”

PFA charity chairman Brendan Batson said: “Our intention in setting up the group is to give a voice to the people who are most affected by dementia and other neurological diseases in football.

“We want to work closely with current players and the families of former players who know best what is needed in terms of support.”

Days after Gary Lineker revealed thinks heading should be banned in training and even used to avoid heading the ball when he was younger, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard expressed that he was considering adapting Chelsea’s training over concerns with the number of ex-players developing dementia.

He said: “The rules need to be stronger to make sure we’re not making younger children head it if they don’t need to. In the development game, that’s more than possible.

“We have to start with youth football. When children are developing, we can control the levels of training. Anything we can do to make things safer, we should.

“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.

“At the professional level, the small gains are huge and we need to make sure we’re working under the same guidelines and trust each other that we are.

“At the moment, there are no guidelines. It has to be something that goes across the board.”

What do you think, now that one club has chosen to limit heading in training, do you think more should follow their lead? Let us know.

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