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PFA calls for ‘immediate steps’ to reduce heading in training

T

he Professional Footballers’ Association has called for “heading in training to be reduced and monitored” amid a growing focus on dementia among former professionals.

The recent death of England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, who lived with dementia, was soon followed by team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton’s diagnosis just days later.

The Stiles family this week criticised both Football Association and PFA over the game’s failure to “address the scandal” of the illness, and called for “urgent action”.

A PFA statement read: “Following a meeting of the PFA’s Management Committee yesterday, the player’s union is calling for heading in training to be reduced and monitored.

“As part of plans around improved protection for current players, the Professional Footballers’ Association has said a game-wide strategy is urgently needed for dealing with dementia and neurodegenerative diseases in football.”

Former England striker Gary Lineker has been among a group of ex-professionals who have suggested a need to reduce or ban heading in training, even at the top level.

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.”

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The PFA says it is calling on the support of clubs, leagues and the Football Association to create a coordinated strategy to measure, monitor and adapt training.

Chief executive Gordon Taylor said: “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.”

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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