A study shows that virtual reality could help reduce risk in headers while maintaining performance levels

According to a new study, virtual reality could help soccer players train their header skills effectively, allowing them to practice without being exposed to the dangers that repetitive headers can bring.

After training with a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, the players showed better header performance in the “real world” compared to a control group that did not undergo training.

The results of the study, conducted by the Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport and published in Virtual Reality today (Tuesday 6 June), show that VR is an effective method for physical injury training. The research provides new insights into how players can improve their technique despite training limitations.

The Football Association (FA) guidelines discourage all header training for children under the age of 12, while an attempt is underway to completely eliminate header training in games up to and including this age group.

At ages 12 and 13, heading should be limited to a single session with no more than five headers, and at ages 14 to 17 to no more than 10 headers per session, according to the FA’s guidelines.

Even in adult soccer at all skill levels, players are advised to only perform 10 “higher power headers” per training week, such as B. Headers from crosses, corners, free kicks and returning shots on goal.

The guidelines address concerns about the impact of repeated headers on a player’s longer-term well-being.

A study by the Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport recently found immediate effects from the game of headers, showing that even a brief session of headers can result in a change in brain function and the way the brain communicates with muscles.

Ben Marshall, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the Manchester Met’s Institute of Sport, said: “Our results show that VR-based training can be used to improve real-world header performance and that this method is more effective than the skill not to train.” at all.

“This is important as current training guidelines recommend limiting the number of physical headers executed in training for all age groups due to the long-term risks involved to player health.

“Our results suggest that the inclusion of VR-based training could play an important role in the development of header skills in football, while also reducing the number of real-world headers and sub-concussive headbutts that players have to face – which is really positive.” is.”

A group of 36 adult recreational gamers, consisting of 30 men and six women, took part in the study.

They were divided into two groups of 18 people each: 16 men and two women in the control group who did not take part in any VR training, and 14 men and four women in the VR group.

All 36 participants participated in a ‘real world’ pre-test session, with each completing 15 recorded header attempts on target.

While the control group then rested for seven to 10 days, the VR group completed at least three 30-minute sessions of VR technology at their homes over a 10-day period.

They used the Oculus Quest 2 head-mounted display along with the Rezzil Player 22 application, which was used for soccer header training.

This application consists of 60 header training drills with high scores for consistency and accuracy that allow progression for more drills.

All participants then participated in a ‘real world’ post-test session, where each completed 15 recorded header attempts on target.

The results showed that the VR group significantly improved head performance, while the control group showed no significant improvement.

The study found that the VR group also reported greater confidence and improvements in head training compared to the control group.