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Studies have discovered a link between heading a football and dementia in later life. It has been suggested that heading could be removed from the sport.
But if heading a football was banned, what would the game look like? How would goals be scored? How would they be defended? What would a football player look like?
Seb Stafford-Bloor explores this idea. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.
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Music sourced from epidemicsound.com
Additional footage sourced from freestockfootagearchive.com
Foreign in August 2021 following a study Funded by the English Football Association and the professional Footballers Association a leading Researcher into the prevalence of Dementia in football encouraged the Sport to consider whether heading was Entirely necessary on the publication of His group's work Dr Willie Stewart of The University of Glasgow commented that With the current data we're now at the Point to suggest that football should be Sold with a health warning while the Research also indicated that instances Of neurodegenerative disease actually Varied by person a number of games Played and not by Era Dr Stewart's recommendation at the time Was that football should consider Eliminating heading altogether So regardless of the likelihood or the Politics involved in such a dramatic Change what would that look like how Would a ban on heading affect football [Music] Now we're not looking for a compromise To combat the dangers posed it's been Suggested that heading could be Restricted to certain areas of the pitch And as clubs are currently advised the Players should be limited in the number Of powerful headers that can be made in Training sessions here though we are Just concerned with the Dynamics and how
The game would change if the ability to Head the ball was removed from the laws Statistically that's an interesting Question on average between 10 and 20 Percent of all goals scored are with the Head during the 2019-20 season for Instance 116 of the bundesliga's 728 Goals were headers and in the Premier League that figure was lower 116 of 784 Total goals were scored with the head It's a number which Rises and Falls but Which fluctuates according to Tactical Trends and the types of players in each League And that's a good place to start with Our headless football how would it Affect the players themselves well the Assumption is that by Banning heading Football with Usher in an era of smaller Players during which towering Center Halves and Center forwards would become Less valuable and gradually over time Disappear entirely But that seems wrong or to anticipate a Change that's already happened there are Very few players left at the Professional level who specialize solely In heading a ball at the back even Physically large players are expected to Be technically proficient and the same Is true in attack with a lumbering Target men of old has become a more Rounded footballer capable of linking Play in both scoring and creating goals
In both cases strength and size are Still advantages and even a ban on Heading wouldn't obviously change that But the Dynamics of the sport would Certainly be altered that it's easy to Imagine the impact on certain aspects of The game Attacking Corners would have to be Completely reimagined without the Capacity to compete in the air the Priority for an attacking team would be To keep their crosses away from the Goalkeeper whose easing catching or Punching the ball would be greatly Enhanced given their reach In the 2018 research paper entitled myth Busting set piece myths in soccer author Paul power established their in-swinging Corners created better opportunities Than outswingers with 10.8 percent of The shots taken from them resulting in Goals versus 6.5 percent now part of the Reason for that is just how difficult an In-swinger can be for a goalkeeper and The many distractions and deviations They have to deal with and react to As part of an article for the athletic Goalkeeper analyst Matt pizrowski Admitted that as an ex-goalkeeper he Hated in swingers more because the ball Is coming towards you and you have a Load of people running towards you in a Tight area and a lot can happen so by Removing heading from the game and with
It the attacking side's ability to flick The ball on at the near post a Goalkeeper would enjoy a more Comfortable situation most likely with Less aerial threat their area of Dominance would extend far out of the Six yard box away swinging Corners would Become more popular while flatter driven Crosses would surely be the best way of Preventing goalkeepers from reaching the Ball Even then the result of a corner in a Post-heading world would surely be a Wild and dangerous scramble of the kind That defined medieval forms of the game It's hard to envisage many goals being Scored at all or even Corners surviving Within the laws given the obvious chance Of regular injury and the ugliness of The resulting spectacle The long throw in would be another Casualty it would survive the rules of Course but its Effectiveness which Depends on many of the same flickons and Knockdowns as an in-swinging Corner Would be greatly diminished The goal can't be scored directly from a Throw-in so even the flattest fiercest Type the Rory to lap long throw would Lose most of its Menace without a head To help it on But there are other areas in which Attacking opportunity would actually be Increased without the security of being
Able to make the headed clearance for Example Defenders maintaining a high Line would become more vulnerable to a Quick ball over the top it may be an Attacking strategy that exists already But its execution would become Significantly easier tactically this Could lead to a deeper defensive line in Compensation over the years and decades It would necessitate greater speed and Center-backs and condemn anyone who Can't keep Pace with a Killian and Bape Or sandhyun Min to play somewhere else Defending a cross in open Play would Likely become far more difficult too Anything above head height would be Impossible to block before it reaches Its Target and even then actually Clearing the ball is likely to involve a More Awkward skill with less margin for Error In what way is unclear and we can only Speculate but a band heading would Clearly produce a dramatic change in the Kind of defensive techniques that Players are taught and maybe alongside a Premium on speed a difference in the Type of body types required longer legs Perhaps instead of stronger necks but These impacts are just those felt in a Specific part of the game and because Most memorable headers occur in the Penalty Box it's easy to ignore just how Fundamental they are elsewhere according
To a report published by statsbom in 2020 most games in the top five European Leagues average around 75 headers and Yet in the 2018-19 Premier League season Just 25.7 percent of all headers Occurred within the 18-yard Box That describes how fundamental they can Be to the ordinary phases of the game Even if those headers themselves are Largely unremarkable now contained Within the remaining 74.3 percent of the Pitch are headers from goal kicks the Headed wall passes and even little Touches with the head that help bring The ball under control essentially Moments of continuity that would be lost Or needed to be replicated by some other Means So there's no definitive answer as to What football would look like without Heading nor in absolute terms what kind Of developments within the game that Such a move would encourage what does Seem clear though is that it would Dramatically alter many more areas of The sport than assumed and that rather Than a tweak it would constitute a minor Revolution If you like this video please consider Subscribing to the channel The athletic brings you the best sports Journalism in the world in a Personalized experience connecting you With the stories and teams that you care
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