Galway United are implementing changes to their training sessions with a view to reducing the amount of 'high-force' headers players are exposed to.
The SSE Airtricity League First Division club's decision mirrors moves introduced in the UK where guidelines have been brought in for professional clubs amid concerns over the long-term risk and effects of brain injuries.
'High-force' headers are described as those following a long pass of more than 35 metres or from crosses, corners and free-kicks and in the UK guidelines limit them to 10 per training week.
In an interview with the Irish Daily Star, Galway United first-team coach Lisa Fallon confirmed that the club have followed suit with the backing of manager John Caulfield as she implements the changes, having sought information from the club's analyst about the number of 'high-force' headers the Tribesmen's players were performing.
She told the newspaper that "the numbers compare fairly closely to what we are seeing over in England" with variances based on positions – with centre-backs most exposed – and the tactics of the opposition.
"I looked to see where there were ways I could modify the sessions, so that we could stick to 10 high-force headers or less per week, and which players were most likely to be subjected to them," said Fallon, who explained that 'high-force' headers in training were only phased back in on the Tuesday after a Friday night match.
She added: "We've been doing it for about six weeks now and I've found that it is easy to make those modifications."
Dr Willie Stewart, is the man who spearheaded the influential FIELD (Football's Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk) study, which found that former players were 3.5 times more likely to die with dementia than their peers in the general public.
While correlation does not imply causation, research has indicated that those that played in positions associated with higher frequency of heading the ball experience bleaker outcomes.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Dr Stewart said: "In particular, the risk was higher in positions where head impacts and (the rate of) heading a football was also highest.
"Defenders had the highest risk. The risk was about five times higher than would be expected, but goalkeepers' risk was about what we'd expect from the population."
Dr Stewart added : "I think we need to be slightly cautious. We don't know exactly how many headers of how much force might lead to problems further down the line.
"The pragmatic view is let's just try and do fewer of these as much as possible."
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