Author Topic: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football  (Read 2150 times)

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Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« on: August 8, 2018, 07:17:51 PM »
Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football

Heading a football should be restricted in the professional game and banned for those under the age of 18, according to one of the world's leading experts on brain injuries.

Dr Bennet Omalu discovered the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The condition has long-term effects and is caused by repeated head trauma.

"It does not make sense to control an object travelling at a high velocity with your head," Dr Omalu said.

"I believe, eventually, at the professional level we need to restrict heading of the ball. It is dangerous."

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live's Phil Williams programme, Omalu added: "No child under the age of 18 should be heading the ball in soccer.

"Kids under the age of 12 to 14 should play a less contact form of soccer which we should develop for them. Kids between 12 and 18 can play but should not head the ball.

"I know this is difficult for many people but science evolves. We change with time. Society changes. It is time for us to change some of our ways."

An inquest into the death of former England and West Brom footballer Jeff Astle ruled he died from brain trauma caused by heading heavy leather footballs.

He died in 2004, aged 72, after suffering with Alzheimer's for almost 10 years following his 16-year football career.

On Wednesday, his daughter Dawn repeated calls for the game to investigate possible links between CTE and the heading of footballs.

"This is fact now. We are not just assuming other players may have died of the same illness as Dad, this is now fact," said Dawn.

Her latest comments come after the death of Rod Taylor, a former wing-half for Portsmouth, Gillingham and Bournemouth, who died in April having suffered from the condition.

His daughter Rachel Walden told the BBC heading the ball should not be banned but instead the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and the Football Association (FA) should to do more to help support former players and their families.

"My father's dementia was caused by heading the ball and concussions," she said. "We can't wait for them to die before we start helping them. We need to start helping them now.

"We are not blaming the football clubs or the clubs that he played for. He was proud of all the clubs he played for. It's not about changing the game, it's about trying to get the PFA to take responsibility for their members in their hour of need."

Several high-profile ex-players have been diagnosed with dementia, including 1966 England World Cup winners Nobby Stiles, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson, Liverpool legends Ron Yeats and Tommy Smith and Celtic's European Cup-winning captain Billy McNeill.

Speaking about the effect heading a football has on the head, Omalu said: "The human brain floats like a balloon inside your skull so when you head the ball you suffer brain damage. You damage your brain when you head the ball.

"Playing soccer would increase your risk of suffering brain damage when you are much older and developing dementia and CTE."

There have been a number of moves across professional sport to combat head injuries.

Concussion substitutes have been introduced to county cricket this summer, allowing teams to replace a player who has concussion or suspected concussion, while rugby union chiefs introduced an eight-point action plan in March to make the sport safer.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/45110282

I am all for safety for the players but how could you 'restrict" it? It's either you ban heading or not imo and if you ban it, the whole game changes as you won't see long balls, crosses as often.

I suppose banning it for kids makes sense though.

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #1 on: August 8, 2018, 07:25:05 PM »
it's political correctness gone mad
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #2 on: August 8, 2018, 07:28:35 PM »
He might be a brain expert, but he's not an expert on football. Other studies have shown, repeatedly, that head-to-ball contact constitutes the lowest incidences of concussion and brain trauma in football. The main causes IIRC are head-to-head contact, head-to-ground, and head-to-elbow.

Restricting heading isn't going to work. Besides which, the average player heads the ball less than three times per game. Once again, people with no knowledge of a sport are trying to change the sport for something that is an uncommon outcome.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #3 on: August 8, 2018, 07:29:00 PM »
Absolutely impossible to implement. Even if you ban heading in youth academies, how do you prevent them from practising it when they're just having a kick about with their mates?

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #4 on: August 8, 2018, 07:29:49 PM »
18 seems a bit old for it to be lifted, you'd have players on the verge of breaking into teams on the biggest stage who didn't know how to head a ball properly

15 or so could work I guess

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #5 on: August 8, 2018, 07:33:38 PM »
Absolutely impossible to implement. Even if you ban heading in youth academies, how do you prevent them from practising it when they're just having a kick about with their mates?

It's banned in American youth football up to U12, I think. Which makes sense, as their neck muscles haven't developed, and the ball doesn't spend that long in the air. After puberty would be the correct time to start teaching it, I think - but what gets untrained, almost 100% of the time, is the development of strong neck muscles that would minimize the whiplash effect that causes most concussions.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #6 on: August 8, 2018, 07:34:20 PM »
The players they use as examples were heading a different heavier ball, no?

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #7 on: August 8, 2018, 07:38:21 PM »
It's banned in American youth football up to U12, I think. Which makes sense, as their neck muscles haven't developed, and the ball doesn't spend that long in the air. After puberty would be the correct time to start teaching it, I think - but what gets untrained, almost 100% of the time, is the development of strong neck muscles that would minimize the whiplash effect that causes most concussions.

Entirely fair points. I don't think banning it in youth football is a bad idea in principle, but you're pissing in the wind trying to enforce it I reckon.

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #8 on: August 8, 2018, 07:49:38 PM »
They should change the ball for youths, and not change the rules. I mean the material as well, not just the size.
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Offline PhaseOfPlay

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #9 on: August 8, 2018, 08:08:32 PM »
Entirely fair points. I don't think banning it in youth football is a bad idea in principle, but you're pissing in the wind trying to enforce it I reckon.

A header is a free kick for those age groups. Which is equally ridiculous. Teaches the wrong version of the game. A drop ball would suffice. But that's beside the point of the thread :D Beginning headers at a suitable age is fine. But banning it from adult football is beyond the pale.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #10 on: August 8, 2018, 08:09:33 PM »
They should change the ball for youths, and not change the rules. I mean the material as well, not just the size.

It's lighter and smaller. Not sure what material it needs to be made from?

The issue isn't the ball. Head-to-ball is not a major factor in traumatic brain injury for football.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #11 on: August 8, 2018, 08:13:42 PM »
18 seems a bit old for it to be lifted, you'd have players on the verge of breaking into teams on the biggest stage who didn't know how to head a ball properly

15 or so could work I guess

Not just verging on, but actually breaking in. Woodburn made five appearances season before last while under 18. Imagine if he was the one player on the pitch who couldn't head the ball ;D

Like you say, 15 seems more reasonable.

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #12 on: August 8, 2018, 09:00:18 PM »
Let’s just play with a fly away.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #13 on: August 8, 2018, 09:12:13 PM »
The players they use as examples were heading a different heavier ball, no?
the likes of Jeff Astle yes

Let’s just play with a fly away.
They pretty much are these days!

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #14 on: August 8, 2018, 09:16:41 PM »
They pretty much are these days!

Exactly, I've headed balls for years and they have never done me any potato

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #15 on: August 8, 2018, 09:20:01 PM »
You'd do better by red carding players who use their fucking elbows to smash opposition players in the face.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #16 on: August 8, 2018, 09:20:56 PM »
I'm struggling to see what scientific tests have been used here. Is there a link to studies that have been carried out? I'm not sure listing people who have developed dementia is proof of anything.

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #17 on: August 8, 2018, 09:22:09 PM »
I'm struggling to see what scientific tests have been used here. Is there a link to studies that have been carried out? I'm not sure listing people who have developed dementia is proof of anything.

No one who didn’t play football gets dementia, silly.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #18 on: August 8, 2018, 09:33:59 PM »
Although the long term studies on heading in football are only starting to come to the fore, it seems to me, it's a little bit of cherry picking of data.

That's not to under estimate head trauma, or repeated head/ball contact over many years.

At present the study names two former professional footballers, who have been diagnose with issues relating to continuous heading.

In the same timeframe, say from the 1960s or 70s to the present day, how many professional footballers have headed the ball continuously?

10,000 - 100,000 - 1m - ?

No doubt many have been undiagnosed, or missed, yet it still seems like a minute number in relation to the amount of professional footballers we're talking about over the last 50odd years.

That's not even taking into account of the equipment of the day, ie: heavy leather case balls from the 60s, 70s etc. which have no real resemblance to todays lightweight balls.

Who knows. Maybe we're just starting to see the tip of the iceberg, and no doubt there needs to be more study, and more data to convince me to see any kind of banning of heading in the game, especially as it's an essential aspect of the game.

Whats to say the two former professionals diagnosed with brain trauma weren't already predisposed to such disease etc. due to family traits or genes.

That's not to poo poo the medical professionals opinions etc.  They're leading professionals in their field, and are well worth listening to.

To me, the jury's well and truly, still out. Not on the effects of head trauma, but how much heading, actually contributes to the overall issue.

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #19 on: August 8, 2018, 09:37:31 PM »
There is a reason why not everybody should head the ball and it has nowt to do with brain injuries.


Stupid fucking idea.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #20 on: August 8, 2018, 10:13:42 PM »
I am all for safety for the players but how could you 'restrict" it? It's either you ban heading or not imo and if you ban it, the whole game changes as you won't see long balls, crosses as often.
I suppose if they wanted to restrict it rather than ban it, they could allow heading only on corners for example (though because of head-head collisions that's probably the most dangerous moment in a game from a head doctor's perspective). Or allow it on any play BUT corners.

Absolutely impossible to implement. Even if you ban heading in youth academies, how do you prevent them from practising it when they're just having a kick about with their mates?
This would be 20 years from now of course, but if children were born never seeing headers in the pro game, & it wasn't being taught by their coaches, they would be highly unlikely to start doing it on their own.
« Last Edit: August 8, 2018, 10:16:42 PM by soxfan »
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #21 on: August 8, 2018, 10:16:09 PM »
Well this means kids amateur boxing is fucked then.


Head guards yes, repetitive head trauma - constantly


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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #22 on: August 8, 2018, 11:44:42 PM »
This to me is probably a bit more important than heading in football:

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45089225
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #23 on: August 8, 2018, 11:59:21 PM »
I suppose if they wanted to restrict it rather than ban it, they could allow heading only on corners for example (though because of head-head collisions that's probably the most dangerous moment in a game from a head doctor's perspective). Or allow it on any play BUT corners.
what do you do on goal kicks then?

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #24 on: August 9, 2018, 12:00:26 AM »
A header is a free kick for those age groups. Which is equally ridiculous. Teaches the wrong version of the game. A drop ball would suffice. But that's beside the point of the thread :D Beginning headers at a suitable age is fine. But banning it from adult football is beyond the pale.

Since I've coached both of my daughters in the US up to U12 and into club level I'll give some feedback here but just as it relates to girls, boys would probably be a bit different:

1. At U8 to U12 most (90%+) cannot head a ball to begin with and are still scared of the ball as it's travelling at their face/head so they just move out of the way.
2. Because of the above, you may see this called 1-2 times a game but in other games never at all.
3. Free kicks aren't that big of a deal as most can't control where their shot is going with any consistency.  We had one girl score 4 in a game last season from free kicks but then the rest of the season I doubt she scored more than one as she would just smash them all over the goal trying to replicate that miracle game. 
4. From the coaches training this doesn't have to do with under developed neck muscles but more head to head injuries from the girls running into each other trying to head the ball, so by saying no to heading it's with that in mind.
5. This has somewhat been born out in U13+ in that the only concussions I've seen so far are clash of heads and head to ground. 
6. Think we went over this in another thread but they're really big on getting a doctors clearance here after a concussion.  No practice or play time at all until you have a signed doctors note indicating they can play as of the day it was signed.  If it says some date in the future then they still can't play even when that day comes unless the get a new note.

Concussions suck, anyway to try to reduce them in young people especially is for the best in my mind.

Edit: For the balls used, a standard professional ball is a size 5 ball.  U8-U10 use a size 3 and U10-U12 use a size 4.  U13+ then use the standard size 5 ball, this is the same for boys and girls.  It's about a 2 inch circumference difference when going from one size to the next.
For GK - This might have been changed but there is a restricted space for U8-U10 outside of the goalie box that only the team with the ball can be in to allow for a starting pass by the GK without pressure.  Supposed to help learn to build from the back as well by doing this though most coaches don't seem to realize it as you see the team do that one pass and then just lose the ball a lot as there is no pattern of play being taught to move the team up the field.  U10+ you again try to play from the back or control the ball with your feet, if the field is crappy enough you can also just wait for the ball to bounce over the defenders and try to run onto it.
For Corner Kicks - Looking for deflections but mainly hoping the kid taking the kick just gets it in play.
« Last Edit: August 9, 2018, 12:09:47 AM by BrandoLFC »

Offline PhaseOfPlay

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #25 on: August 9, 2018, 12:25:01 AM »

4. From the coaches training this doesn't have to do with under developed neck muscles but more head to head injuries from the girls running into each other trying to head the ball, so by saying no to heading it's with that in mind.


Undeveloped and under-developed neck muscles are a contributing cause of concussions, though, especially in the girls game.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24930131

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28753688

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17762744
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Offline Bakez0151

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #26 on: August 9, 2018, 12:41:37 AM »
I used to do so many heading training exercises but I didn't play much competitive football as a kid so I never properly learnt to head the ball. As a result when I do, it goes pretty badly!

It seems like an absolutely fucking awful idea to go into the professional game with zero experience in that area. That would cause way more concussions and injuries. You wouldn't jump right, you wouldn't head it right, you wouldn't land right. When you grow up/spend years doing something then you mostly learn to do it in the safe way, no-one likes hurting themselves! I know that may be missing the point of the repeated blows stuff, but concussion and landing badly seem like a much more potent threat to player's health.

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #27 on: August 9, 2018, 12:45:17 AM »
I used to do so many heading training exercises but I didn't play much competitive football as a kid so I never properly learnt to head the ball. As a result when I do, it goes pretty badly!

It seems like an absolutely fucking awful idea to go into the professional game with zero experience in that area. That would cause way more concussions and injuries. You wouldn't jump right, you wouldn't head it right, you wouldn't land right. When you grow up/spend years doing something then you mostly learn to do it in the safe way, no-one likes hurting themselves! I know that may be missing the point of the repeated blows stuff, but concussion and landing badly seem like a much more potent threat to player's health.


I just grew up loving to head the thing.
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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #28 on: August 9, 2018, 01:24:16 AM »
The youth heading ban in the US is as follows:

No heading for players U11 and below.
Heading in games for U12 players but limited practice of headers
U13 and above - no restrictions

The ban in the US was brought about by a law suit from a few parents in, I think, California.  If I remember correctly, they were concerned about the number of concussions that high school aged players were getting and the ban was a compromise from US Soccer.  Considering the litigious nature of this country, I won’t be surprised if there is another lawsuit and a ban on all heading in the near future.

Offline BrandoLFC

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #29 on: August 9, 2018, 01:30:37 AM »
Undeveloped and under-developed neck muscles are a contributing cause of concussions, though, especially in the girls game.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24930131

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28753688

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17762744

Just going off of what I recall from the training, not disputing it one way or another.

Offline PhaseOfPlay

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #30 on: August 9, 2018, 01:37:26 AM »

Just going off of what I recall from the training, not disputing it one way or another.

That's why I said it was undertrained :D It's quite neglected, especially in the girls game, much to the chagrin of a number of women  players I've talked to about the subject of concussions and heading in the women's game.

If you're coaching girls, it's something to be aware of for the future, because it doesn't take much to train those muscles weekly. It should be part of every teenage female football player's weekly conditioning programme.
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Offline gazzalfc

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #31 on: January 16, 2020, 06:29:18 PM »
Scottish FA expected to ban children heading footballs within weeks

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-51129653

I think an outright ban is just stupid. Education on safe heading and head injury detection has to be the priority.

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #32 on: January 16, 2020, 06:32:58 PM »
it's political correctness gone mad

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #33 on: January 16, 2020, 06:33:17 PM »
The concussion stuff coming out now is scary but it's by no means complete and I think even stuff like certain sectors of pro wrestling(!) has a better grasp on it than the usual dialogue of football at every level. Because football is huge, and it's something so common... I can see this not being taken seriously as a result.

As with almost anything, I'd vastly prefer choice to still exist to some extent, with the caveat there's a huge and concerted focus on the right education, evidence-based information made available, education is surely the way to do it. At all levels of the game.

... Laziness of approach is when blanket bans come in. No, education is the only way. Blanket bans, ummm. I don't believe in "political correctness gone mad" as an argument at all, but I'm not condemnding anyone for thinking it as long as they're prepared to change it with the right evidence.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 06:36:46 PM by ToneLa »

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #34 on: January 16, 2020, 06:41:58 PM »
Scottish FA expected to ban children heading footballs within weeks

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-51129653

I think an outright ban is just stupid. Education on safe heading and head injury detection has to be the priority.


It isn't an outright ban though is it.
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Offline Romford_Red

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Re: Brain injury expert calls for ban on heading in football
« Reply #35 on: January 16, 2020, 06:44:58 PM »
The players they use as examples were heading a different heavier ball, no?

This may be so, but they were doing it at much lower velocities.

The speed a modern ball reaches likely more than makes up for the difference in ball composition.

Not agreeing or disagreeing with the conclusions of the OP, but putting these cases down to a heavier ball is pretty egregious.