Ex-Sunderland defender calls for changes over heading rules in football

Lee Howey, ex-Sunderland defender, believes it’s time to change the rules over heading in football.

Former Sunderland player Lee Howey has called for a rule change over heading in football, saying he believes there is a link between dementia and heading the ball.

A 2019 University of Glasgow study found no definitive link between the two, but did say players were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of dementia than the average person.

Howey wants to see a new system introduced, where players with possible head injuries can be substituted and return to the pitch later in the match, if given a doctor’s permission. This is a rule which has been in place in the NFL since 2013.

Lee said: “The rule should come in straight away: footballers never want to come off the pitch.”

He also revealed how, in a reserve game against Aston Villa, he was in a collision and did not know the score at half time due to being concussed, and was substituted – but would have played on if he had been allowed to.

Despite Howey’s calls for the rules to be changed, he also believes that heading is a vital part of the game. 

He said: “You can’t take heading away from football. And it isn’t just that; there are collisions and fouls too. You can only do so much. You can’t remove all risk, or wear crash helmets – it’s a contact sport.”