The FA, Premier League, EFL and Professional Footballers Association (PFA) have announced a new joint action plan on understanding, promoting, and protecting brain health.
The plan focuses on research, education, awareness, and support for players. It will bring together all workstreams and resources to manage head injuries more effectively, and to further understand the links between the game and neurodegenerative diseases.
The organisations have also announced a consultation with key stakeholders which will help shape future work in this important area. Interested parties will be invited to provide their views regarding ongoing research programmes, how to improve heading awareness, knowledge, and education of concussion across the game, as well as any additional areas of support that could be given to current and ex-professional footballers.
A comprehensive list of all research supported by football to date has also been confirmed, demonstrating the cross-football commitment in this area.
Chief Executive of the FA, Mark Bullingham, says: “Understanding the risk factors of neuro-degenerative disease in football is an incredibly complex area of medical science which requires exploration of many different lines of research. Football is working together to try to build a more complete picture by supporting a variety of projects. Until we have a greater level of understanding, we are also reducing the potential risk factors. We have already done this for heading earlier this year by introducing the most comprehensive guidelines anywhere in the world, covering the youth and adult game at all levels. This new joint action plan will further help to build our understanding across English football of this complex area.”
Richard Masters, Premier League Chief Executive, comments: “The safety of players is a priority for the Premier League and football’s joint action plan outlines our extensive work to better understand and manage the brain health of current and former players. It is important that football has come together to work collaboratively on this issue. With the help of experts, and alongside other sports with similar challenges, we want to ensure we have the right approach in place to protect the welfare of players.”
Trevor Birch, CEO of the EFL, adds: “English football has a collective responsibility to understand and act upon the risk factors of neurodegenerative disease and therefore the EFL is pleased to support the game’s new joint action plan on brain health. By working together in this collaborative approach, we will acquire the information to be better equipped to improve safeguarding measures for those who play football at all levels of competition.
“The EFL and its clubs are committed to making improvements in this vital area and have signed up to the game’s new Heading Guidance and are also taking part in the trial of concussion substitutes throughout the current season in all our competitions which we hope will provide the insight to develop the processes needed to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place going forward.”
Maheta Molango, PFA Chief Executive, concludes: “The PFA is committed to advocating strongly on behalf of our members while working collaboratively with football’s stakeholders.
“A joined-up approach is essential to improve the health and safety of our current and future members. A coordinated response is also required to provide comprehensive and dedicated support to our former players, and their families, currently living with dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.
“This is a vital and complex area. It has to be the top priority for all involved in football.”
Several research projects are currently ongoing to understand the links, risks, and possible causes of degenerative brain injury in ex-footballers and ensuring the game today reduces the risk of injury.
The FA is supporting a new study starting in 2022 from Glasgow University. The BrainHOPE study, part of the wider Prevent Dementia study, provides an analysis of deterioration of cognitive function in the mid-life of ex-professional footballers to understand potential early interventions which could help reduce risk or speed of developing dementia. This £1.2 million investment will run until the 2024/25 season.
It is also partnering with the RFU and Premiership Rugby to expand the Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic, a new specialist clinical service and associated research programme for retired elite rugby players. The expansion to retired football players is due to start operating in 2022.
The clinic will be run by world-leading experts from Imperial College London (ICL), University College London (UCL) and the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH). It will establish a linked research programme that will provide insights into the risk, causes and management of brain problems occurring following participation in elite rugby and football. This £2.4 million investment by English football is scheduled to run until at least 2028.
For HSE guidance on managing workplace head injuries and concussion, click here.
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