Scientific studies have discovered that professional footballers those who play in positions where heading is required frequently are likely to develop dementia in their later years.
Scientists have found that a football can strike a players head up to speeds of 128km/h which causes the brain to collide with the back of the skull leading to bruising of the brain. Over a long-playing career this repetitive heading of the ball builds up eventually leading to problems such as dementia. On average there was 101 headers in each game in the premier league last season and there has been cries from many scientists and doctors to ban heading in football, however most fans feel that football would not be the same game without heading.
There is large evidence to suggest that heading in football does have an impact on the brain the main example being members of England’s 1966 world cup winning squad in which many members of that squad have shown symptoms of dementia. Jeff Astle was part of England’s 1970 world cup squad, and he was one of the first footballers to die from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). in which many people including his family say that this was a result of heading the ball over the years he was playing. Astle died in 2002 at the age of 59 and after examining Astle’s brain it was found that he died from CTE, and it is also convenient that this is a condition that is often linked to boxers (another head hitting sport).
This problem spreads across the football pyramid in England however more so in lower league football due to the amount that the ball gets kicked into the air and the number of games played in a season in comparison to the Premier League. League Two saw 20,582 headers across 140 games last season in comparison to the Premier League which saw 7,840 headers across 78 games. In addition to this, in League Two a player headed the ball 20 times in a match 58 times which is a clear issue when it comes to health issues as those players are likely to experience CTE at some point in their life, according to many studies.
However, despite all the evidence surrounding brain damage in football there is some who oppose banning heading in football. Sunderland RCA defender Max Allen, who plays at the ninth tier of the English football pyramid, stated,
“Football without heading simply wouldn’t work, it would be like boxing with no headshots or rugby with no scrums, it’s just part of playing a contact sport and nobody is forcing you to play”.
“You know the risks when stepping onto the pitch, anything could happen and if you were to worry about every little risk in life and stop doing what you love you won’t get very far in life”.
“Obviously I understand that heading the ball repetitively over a number of years may give me health problems further down the line however if you were to remove heading from football it may as well be a different sport, as heading is such a big part of the game when it comes to asserting yourself over the opposition”.
Case study by Professor Damian Bailey: