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Scottish FA restricts play to football training and sparks brain injury debate

If he wanted to leave Milan for the Scottish Championship, Olivier Giroud would find it difficult to keep his fatal weapon: the header that allowed him to score 13 of his 51 goals under the tricolor shirt. Number of Blue Chronicles site. On 28 November, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) decided to limit training to one session per week for all adult players, including professionals, and banned training and recovery sessions on the day before and after matches.

To justify this measure, the SFA cites a startling statistical study led by the University of Glasgow published in 2019. New England Journal of Medicine. Based on a sample of almost 8,000 former Scottish professional footballers, it revealed that they were around 3.5 times more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases than a comparable general population.

The study avoids any hypothesis regarding the origin of this overexposure. Of course, a concussion from a hit to the head is visible; It remains to be considered whether we should blame only the accidental violent collision or also think about a deliberate attack. According to the SFA, suspicion must ensure safety: “It is important to repeat, however, the research [de l’université de Glasgow] Not being able to determine the causes of this increased risk, both injuries and adventure games have been suggested as possible contributing factors in neurodegenerative diseases. John McLean, the SFA’s senior medical adviser, said in a statement from the federation.

The French Federation conducted its own research

The unfortunate fate of the 1966 England XI is one of the reasons why British football is sensitive to the issue of brain injury. Among the players who won the World Cup back then, four died of dementia. In 2020, British football legend Sue Lopez suffered a brain injury. There is a lack of data on women’s football in 2021, lamented William Stewart, Scotland’s co-head of research, to German media. Deutsche WelleBut scientists generally believe that women are more susceptible than men to the harmful effects of concussions.

On the other side of the channel, the subject burns less, though monitored. The French Football Federation (FFF) conducted its own statistical study, which was published in May Nordic Journal of Medicine and Science in SportBased on a sample of 6,100 former French professional players. Like the Scottish study, it found that they developed more cases of dementia than the general population. By publishing this publication on its website, the FFF highlighted another result, namely that the practice of professional football leads to “Total Less Mortality” Practitioners, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

England striker Geoff Hurst scores a hat-trick in England's 1966 World Cup final win over the Federal Republic of Germany on July 30 at Wembley Stadium in London.

As for the criminalization of assault, Emanuel Orhant, medical director of the FFF and co-author of the study, is skeptical. He notes that decades can separate the end of a career and the onset of dementia, during which time other risk factors can arise. What’s more, he adds, the study focused on soccer in the 1960s and 1970s, when players, even professionals, had “another life” outside the fields.

“Meta-analyses fail to show association between title games and neurodegenerative diseases”, The doctor insists, for whom, if not “don’t underestimate” This assumption and respect “Precautionary Principle” No more is needed “Making unexpected decisions”, Lack of formal evidence. And we call for more research.

Child protection is a priority

After rough contact on the grass, many stars of the round ball made their way to the oval in the way of several rugby clubs and sports federation referee Jean-Francois Cherman’s neurology office. In the eyes of a doctor, the most spectacular shock is not always the most alarming: “It’s better to have a few concussions and recover each time than to have repeated concussions” or a less severe shock, the symptoms of which may be a flash in the eyes or dizziness for a few seconds. But, says the doctor, “Playing with the head doesn’t always cause concussions, but it can happen”.

Two experts agree on one thing: children must be protected. For Emmanuel Orhant, their training should favor smaller or less inflated balls and it is important to learn proper technique and strengthen the neck. The doctor of the Football Federation announces that training recommendations will be issued for the next season. Moreover, according to him, “Less than 10 years, almost no one plays in the head”. The FA is already experimenting with banning headers from games involving under-12s. In the protocol established by the IFAB, the venerable organization that has guaranteed the laws of football for one hundred and thirty-six years, the title game is sanctioned by an indirect free kick.

FIFA, for its part, does not comment on the hypothesis of a link between the game and brain damage, but emphasizes that “Reviews research in all areas of brain health” and “Conducts research into the mechanical properties of balls, studying how these factors can affect impact,” According to the representative. FIFA also notes that it, along with the FA, is supporting new research from the University of Glasgow into the decline of cognitive functions in former players in middle age.

The Scottish FA is pleased, however, that 64% of the players surveyed are in favor of limiting headers during training. This event has also received the heartfelt endorsement of Headway, a British association dedicated to brain injury prevention and support for victims. In a statement, Acting President Luke Griggs applauded A “voluntarism” It is even more remarkable that “Traditionally, football is afraid of change”.

Source: Le Monde

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