Two research studies from Saarland University and Hampden Sports Clinic have been commissioned by UEFA.
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UEFA has commissioned two separate but complementary academic research studies to ascertain the exact extent and nature of heading in youth football.
The two studies – one from Saarland University in Germany, and the other from Hampden Sports Clinic and Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board in Scotland – were approved by the UEFA Medical Committee following the recommendation of a panel of experts.
UEFA published a call for research proposals in May 2017 in which researchers were asked to address two questions. Firstly, to determine the burden of heading in youth football, addressing differences in the way headers are taught in football training, and differences in the incidence and characteristics of football headers in matches and training, and in different age and gender categories, while also taking into consideration variations caused by the different traditions and playing styles of the countries. Secondly, proposals were also invited to provide data to determine whether heading in youth football has any effect on players’ brain structure and function.
The UEFA Medical Committee’s expert panel reviewed the ten proposals that were received by the deadline, and recommended that UEFA proceed with the two aforementioned proposals from Saarland University and Hampden Sports Clinic for the first research question. This recommendation was discussed and accepted by the UEFA Medical Committee at their meeting in Nyon in November 2017. The two research groups have now signed contracts with UEFA and have started their work, with initial results expected at the end of 2018.
The panel also recommended that UEFA not proceed with any study for the second question – on the effect of heading on players’ brain structure and function – until results of the studies to determine the burden of heading had been received.
Dr Michel D’Hooghe, Chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, said: "This is a topic of the utmost importance, and I am proud that UEFA is taking a lead in commissioning this research. UEFA places the highest priority on player welfare and this research is a fundamental first step in establishing whether or not heading poses a risk to young players."