Amateur players want grassroots changes over brain injury fears


rassroots footballers and rugby players are in favour of wholesale changes at the lower levels of sport amid fears over brain injury risk.

New research has revealed that 70 per cent of amateur footballers want new Football Association guidelines to restrict heading in training, while almost two thirds of rugby players fear that playing could have an adverse impact on their long-term health.

The research, the first of its kind at grassroots level, comes after football’s link with an increased risk of developing dementia was proved and former international rugby players diagnosed with long-term brain injuries took legal action against the authorities.

The survey was commissioned by The Drake Foundation, who fund the HEADING study in which England manager Gareth Southgate is a participant, involved 2,000 interviews with adult amateurs and the parents of youth players aged between 11 and 17.

It was found that more than half of parents want heading to be restricted in football training for their children – with just under a third wanting it banned completely – while 66 per cent of parents want scrums banned from youth rugby.

In rugby, one in six adult amateurs intend to stop playing completely after the links with brain injuries were exposed by the legal action of former internationals, while almost half will limit their game time.

James Drake, the founder of the Drake Foundation, said: “Whilst we all know that sport on the whole is good for us, there is no denying now that there needs to be a paradigm shift in both football and rugby’s approach to brain health, from grassroots through to the elite level.

“As we start to see changes in the professional games, we hope these findings will help to speed up the implementation of rule changes also to protect younger and amateur participants, so both rugby and football can be enjoyed safely by all.”

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