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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 13:31 GMT

By Simon Austin

Steven Gerrard
Wednesday's game against Cardiff was Gerrard's sixth in 18 days
Football players' chief Gordon Taylor has warned that Steven Gerrard and other England stars are facing burn-out because of the demands placed on them.

Gerrard has started six games in the last 18 days, including England's trip to Moscow and Liverpool's to Istanbul.

"If that was a racehorse you would say that was too much and have the RSPCA onto you," Taylor told BBC Sport.

"It is a good life and nobody's denying that, but we do have a duty to look after our sporting heroes."

Taylor believes the demands put on top players are damaging England's international chances.

"The biggest problem is probably with the elite, who need the most looking after," he said.

Oct 13th: Estonia (h)
Oct 17th: Russia (a)
Oct 20th: Everton (a)
Oct 24th: Besiktas (a)
Oct 28th: Arsenal (h)
Oct 31st: Cardiff (h)

"Think of the number of international players who have had foot injuries, such as Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham, or of John Terry playing with broken bones and having cortisone injections.

"It's up to the authorities and administrators to make it as safe as they can. Some players can clock up 50, 60 games a season and it's obviously going to take a toll.

"What's disappointed me for a long time is that while our club football is ruling the roost, international football is taking a backward step.

"A successful international team can have a really uplifting effect on the whole nation, as we've seen with rugby union.

BBC Sport's Matt Slater

"At the moment, we're turning up on crutches for major football tournaments."

BBC Sport sent questionnaires asking about burnout to each of the PFA representatives at the Premiership clubs.

And of the 15 who responded, eight admitted they had experienced burnout at some point.

Taylor wants the introduction of a winter break and believes a "football passport", which stipulates the maximum number of games players can play, might work.

His plea for a winter break has been backed by England and Everton stalwart Phil Neville.

The PFA boss also called for the establishment a sport-wide "think tank" to look at the amount of sport played by our elite performers.

You are going to find players who, instead of looking at careers of 10 to 15 years, are looking at seven to eight years
Richard Bevan
Professional Cricketers' Association chief

And Taylor's counterparts in cricket and rugby union have told BBC Sport they too are extremely concerned about the demands being placed on their top stars.

Richard Bevan, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, said: "From January to December this year, an England cricketer playing all forms of the game will have been away from home for 258 nights.

"Last year, the player would have got on 61 flights.

"In some players the cumulative affect of all these factors mounts to the point where something cracks."

He believes the pressure being placed on players will reduce the length of their careers.

At any one stage of the season, 25% of our players are off injured
Damian Hopley
Professional Rugby Players' Association chief

"You are going to find players who, instead of looking at careers of 10 to 15 years, are probably looking at seven to eight years," he said.

"It will vary from a batsman to a bowler to an all-rounder. Any bowler over six foot, bowling the sort of schedule that these guys do, will struggle to make 10 years."

Damian Hopley, chief of the Professional Rugby Players' Association, said despite considerable progress in addressing burn-out in his sport, much still needs to be done.

"I think 25% of our players at any one stage of the season are off injured - I think health and safety might be interested in that," he said.

"More game time and more training time is going to be more injury risk and exposure to risk.

Physical and emotional exhaustion
Reduced performance
Lack of enjoyment/ reward from playing and training

"(We need to look at) how we reduce that and ensure we can actually maintain our athletes throughout the 41 weeks of the season."

BBC Sport has also learnt that a soon-to-be-published study of the English Premiership will show that levels of burn-out here are two to three times higher than they are in New Zealand.

The three-year study, which was commissioned by the Rugby Football Union, Premiership and PRA, was conducted by Dr Scott Cresswell, a research fellow at the University of Western Australia.

Cresswell blames the higher rates of attrition in England on too many games, longer training sessions and the strains caused by the club v country row.

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