Soccer: English bodies launch new joint action plan on players' brain health

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United v Arsenal - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - November 1, 2020 General view of flowers and scarves left outside the stadium in memory of Nobby Stiles REUTERS/Paul Ellis

(Reuters) - England's Football Association, the Premier League and other soccer governing bodies have launched a new joint action plan to understand, promote and protect the brain health of players amid the risk of head injuries, they said in a statement on Tuesday.

The issue of dementia in professional soccer was highlighted by the death last year of England's Nobby Stiles who, along with many of his 1966 World Cup-winning team mates, had been diagnosed with the condition.

The British government was urged in July to mandate a minimum standard protocol for concussions across sports in a bid to reduce the risk of brain injuries among athletes.

The joint statement by the FA, Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said the joint action plan focuses on research, education, awareness and support for players.

"Understanding the risk factors of neurodegenerative disease in football is an incredibly complex area of medical science which requires exploration of many different lines of research," said FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham.

"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."

In July, the Premier League and other governing bodies announced that English football would limit the number of high-force headers in training to 10 per week from the 2021-22 season to protect players as part of new guidelines.

"This new joint action plan will further help to build our understanding across English football of this complex area," Bullingham added.

The Premier League introduced permanent concussion substitutions trials in February after the game's rule-making body IFAB gave the go-ahead for trials of additional "concussion subs".

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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