Background There are growing concerns about the risk of neurodegenerative diseases associated with heading in football. It is essential to understand the biomechanics of football heading to guide player protection strategies to reduce the severity of the impact.
Objective The aim of this study was to assess the effect of football speed, mass and stiffness on the forces experienced during football heading using mathematical and human body computational model simulations.
Design Computational biomechanics study.
Patients (or Participants) N/A.
Interventions (or Assessment of Risk Factors) Football headers were reconstructed using a human body modelling approach. Simulations were run by independently varying the football mass, speed and stiffness.
Main Outcome Measurements Peak contact force experienced by the head was extracted from each simulation.
Results Mathematical and human body computational model simulations indicate that the force experienced by the head was directly proportional to the speed of the ball and directly proportional to the square root of the ball stiffness and mass.
Conclusions Over the practical range of ball speed, mass and stiffness, the force experienced by the head during football heading is mainly influenced by the speed of the ball rather than its mass or stiffness. The findings suggest that it would be more beneficial to develop player protection strategies that aim to reduce the speed at which the ball is travelling when headed by a player. Law changes reducing high ball speeds could be trialled at certain age grades or as a phased introduction to football heading.