New heading guidance introduced across English football ahead of 2021/22 season

Credit Graham Burrell

Football is the most popular sport around the world, with players of all ages participating.

Around  265 million people participate in the sport, including amateur and pro athletes. The popularity of football is so much that even online football betting is at an all time high in recent times. Football players are recognised for their dexterity with their feet, but they also utilise their heads. Heading is a crucial football technique. However, there is rising worry regarding its safety as well as a possible relation to brain damage. Hence, there have been some updated recommendations regarding this issue.

The updated recommendation and guidance, that is centred on practice sessions where the most of heading happens, was created to fit the needs of English football at all levels. The rules will apply to EFL, Premier League, FA Women’s Championship, Barclays Women’s Super League, Women’s Football Pyramid Divisions 3 and lower, National League System, England national teams and all grassroots football. Clubs competing in the National League System Stages 1-4 and the Women’s Championship are strongly urged to adhere to this advice to the extent possible.

Credit Graham Burrell

Adult amateur football heading advice

This guideline is geared particularly at players of all levels in adult amateur grassroots football.

The goal of this advice is to decrease exposure time to heading without jeopardising skill improvement or the importance of heading in the English game. The coach’s responsibility in assisting players in developing their heading skills is to guarantee a safe and appropriate method.

These guidelines were created to safeguard the interests of players. This guideline will be evaluated and modified when further research is conducted to reflect increasing awareness.

Guidance on headings in professional football

Multiple research and studies conducted on behalf of a section of the PFNCC in recent months led to the development of pro football guidance. The initial investigations highlighted the various forces engaged in heading a football, which were then shared with a cross-football task force in order to assist design the guide.

  • The first focus of the guideline will be on headers that entail greater forces, depending on those early data, which revealed that the most of the headers require modest forces. These are usually headers that occur after a long pass (greater than 35 metres), as well as  free kicks, corners and crosses. 
  • It is suggested that no more than 10 greater force headers be performed in any given practice week. This suggestion is made to safeguard the wellbeing of players, and it will be evaluated on a periodic basis as further study is conducted to learn more about the consequences of heading in football.
  • Clubs should also create player profiles that incorporate age, gender, playing placement, the amount of headers each match, and the type of such headers, according to the guidelines. These profiles may be used to guarantee that all practice sessions represent the kind and number of headers a player would encounter during a game. Additionally, club personnel will be urged to engage with players after each match to guarantee that they have sufficient time to recuperate from their experience to headings.
  • The advice also offers strategies to continue to use heading procedures while minimising the pressures required. Early research shows that when a ball is thrown instead of being kicked to any player, and if a player heads the ball from an upright leap rather than sprinting onto the ball, smaller forces are created. The PL, in collaboration with partners such as the LMA, will give further assistance to club personnel on how to modify their processes.
  • Neck muscle endurance and strength may be a significant contributor to greater force transfer from heading, according to preliminary but limited data from these initial investigations. A strength and conditioning specialist advisory panel will look for methods to enhance torso and neck strength in the pro game in a secure way.
  • The guidelines were created using a cautious approach to safeguard player welfare in areas where scientific data is weak, and they will be reviewed periodically. The information gathered has improved our knowledge of the factors at work in heading, as well as pointing up areas that need to be investigated further. In the 2021-22 season, the Premier League and its football partners will conduct additional research to help the PFNCC conduct a formal assessment of the recommendations by June’22.


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