- Title: How virtual reality can help reduce brain injuries in football
- Date: 26th August 2021
- Summary: SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE (FILE - NOVEMBER 16, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF FRANCE FOOTBALL PLAYERS HEADING THE BALL IN TRAINING
- Embargoed: 9th September 2021 16:29
- Keywords: Player 22 Rezzil Virtual reality training method to reduce concussion injuries in football head injury soccer
- Location: MANCHESTER & LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / BARCELONA, SPAIN / SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE / DOHA, QATAR
- City: MANCHESTER & LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / BARCELONA, SPAIN / SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE / DOHA, QATAR
- Country: UK
- Topics: Europe,Soccer,Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA005ES216BJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Heading is an integral part of soccer, but its links to lasting brain injuries are proving hard to ignore. One software company feels it has a solution to the damaging impact it can have: virtual reality.
Concussion substitutes were trialled last year, children aged 11 and under are no longer taught to head footballs in training and limitations on headers in training were enforced across the English professional game.
These measures, however, do not go far enough, according to the group. A real, lasting preventative approach could come via an entirely different world altogether.
"We've got everything in there from reaction time training to hand-eye coordination drills. But, most importantly, we're working on heading," Andy Etches, co-founder of Rezzil, a Manchester-based software company that has been working with top English Premier League clubs to enhance their training through virtual reality, told Reuters.
The headset wearer sees a state of the art training facility and can select from a wide variety of professional level training drills, all of which are evaluated to measure your improvement.
Rezzil's latest creation, Player 22, focuses on heading drills to help reduce the number of times a player heads a real ball.
"We've basically got some drills that were designed by top coaches, being used by the top teams to help you head the ball safely, not with the neck, not with the top of your head, to head from your waist and to really put the power in at the same way that an elite player will do," Etches said.
But how realistic is it? Is it an acceptable replacement for the real thing?
"Once you put on a headset, you are in a training ground in environment," Rhys Carr, a UEFA licensed coach who has worked with English second tier sides Sheffield United, Bristol City and Cardiff City recently, told Reuters.
"In terms of timing and trajectory, it has everything other than the contact element with heading."
Problems with long-term brain injury are not confined to soccer.
Former England rugby hooker Steve Thompson revealed his diagnosis of early onset dementia last year, saying he can no longer remember winning the 2003 World Cup, while numerous studies have revealed how susceptible National Football League (NFL) players are to brain injuries due to repeated blows to the head.
Soccer, however, is finally realising the extent of the problem.
"Research has been taking place since the early 2000s", John Mulcahy, director of Sport Science Agency, a UK agency dedicated to delivering sports science activities, told Reuters.
"It started in the NFL, rugby, and now we are seeing a lot of attention on football. Player welfare must be put at the forefront and that is being taking more seriously, because of this research."
Research published by Glasgow university this month revealed that former footballers are 3.5 times more likely to die with dementia than the general public.
With measures to try reduce the impact of heading only recently implemented, it is unknown what effect they will have.
Nonetheless, virtual reality may play a big part in soccer's attempts to combat the issue.
(Production: Stuart McDill)
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