This area is dedicated to brain health in football. It provides essential information, research and guidance for heading and concussion.
Concussion in football
Concussion is a relatively common injury in football. Can you spot the signs?
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Heading in Football
Here, you’ll find information on the trial to remove deliberate heading in football matches at U12 level and below together with guidance on heading in training.
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In 2018, The FA and the PFA appointed the University of Nottingham to conduct an independent research study into the long-term brain health of former professional footballers.
The first two FOCUS studies, led by Weiya Zhang at the Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, have now been peer reviewed and published by Sports Medicine – Open:
AREAS OF Research
* This study, known as the FIELD study, used medical records to understand the risk of dementia in ex-professional footballers.
* Please see the full paper here
* Nottingham FOCUS Study - The FA and PFA have provided funding for this study analysing concussion and heading history against neurocognitive performance in ex-professional footballers against a control population. This will allow us to better understand the risk factors that could have caused the results in the FIELD study. The first publication from the FOCUS study, entitled ‘Cognitive impairment and self-reported dementia in UK retired professional soccer players’, can be found here. The second publication from the FOCUS study, entitled ‘Heading frequency and risk of cognitive impairment in retired male professional soccer players’, can be found here.
* London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ‘HEADING’ Study - The FA and PFA are supporting the LSHTM’s cross-sectional study looking for the early signs of impaired neurocognition in ex-professional footballers.
* International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation (ICHIRF) - The PFA has been funding and supporting the ICHIRF study since 2017, which involves former PFA members, over the aged of 50 years old, taking part in longitudinal screening involving MRI scanning, blood tests and physical examination by specialists.
* Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic - The FA has partnered with the RFU and Premiership Rugby to expand the Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic. This is a new specialist clinical service and associated research programme for retired professional footballers and rugby players. This provides a proactive approach to the assessment and medical management of individual, retired, elite male and female football players. There is a linked research programme providing novel insights into the risk, causes and management of brain problems occurring following participation in elite rugby and football. Please find a link to the ISEH Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic website here
* Whilst there is much research being carried out domestically, very little is known about brain health in players globally. We will continue to work with UEFA and FIFA to explore how the FIELD study could be replicated in other countries.
* The trials are assessing whether this system works and will provide robust analysis of the concussion substitution pilots.
* To help increase the understanding and in-life diagnosis of CTE and quantify precedence, long-term assessment of brain health combined with brain donation is essential.
* Studies including the Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic, the BrainHOPE study and the ICHIRF study are collecting data which includes looking at biomarkers of brain health and radiological methods to try and look at ways that CTE could be diagnosed in life.
* Neurodegenerative risk is complex and the volume of research significant so the amount of football specific research is relatively small compared to the large body of wider work on dementia.
* Football needs to better understand research going on across the neurodegenerative spectrum and try to understand how wider research can be applied in a football setting.
* The FA contributed to a workshop run by Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) in 2022 to agree with wider stakeholders the best way forward for research in this area.
PDF Download: Concussion Guidelines
Commentating on concussion
Do's for covering concussion
Do's for covering concussion
All Football Joint Action Plan
FA Advanced Brain Health Clinic Brochure
UK Concussion Guidelines for Non-Elite (Grassroots Sport)