The English Premier League announced Friday that it will lay down guidelines on hitting the ball during professional training starting next season, as concerns mount over health risks for players.
Activists in this field have long called for the reduction of vertical strikes during training in professional clubs to reduce the risk of concussion in the long term.
A study led by Dr. Willie Stewart, a consultant in neurology at the University of Glasgow of Scotland, published in 2019, revealed that soccer players are three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases than the general population.
Some of the England players who won the 1966 World Cup title suffered from similar illnesses later in life. Nuby Styles and Jack Charlton were suffering from dementia last year when they died, while the latter’s brother, Bobby, the Manchester United legend, is currently suffering from the disease.
The association announced that it will launch two studies to determine the factors affecting vertical strikes.
“The results of these two studies will determine guidelines for head strikes during training in professional and adult (amateur) soccer, which are expected to come into effect before the 2021-2022 season,” she said in a statement.
The guidelines will be approved by a number of bodies, including the Premier League and the FA, in consultation with clubs, players, managers and doctors.
Players from the Liverpool teams under the age of 23 and 18 and the women’s team, in addition to the Manchester City under-18 team and the women’s team, will participate in one of the studies where players will be provided with a mouthguard equipped with sensors to collect data on the effects of head strikes.
The study will also provide insight into any possible difference in the impact of vertical strikes between men and women.
The second project will compare data from the 2019-2020 season matches with results from the mouthguard study.
Instructors have already been advised not to practice hitting the head during exercises for young ages.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said the studies would make the game as safe as possible.
“We hope that the results of this project will contribute to developing practical guidelines in professional and adult football in this country,” he said.
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