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Soccer defenders more at risk of dementia in later life says new research

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As a defender when I played at school I didn't score many goals, but the one I remember most fondly was from a corner, the ball drifting over the pack and me with a diving header at the far post, past the fingertips of a despairing goalie, we win 2-1. Heading the ball out of defence? Must've done, I guess, but I don't remember much about that. I don't think it happens enough at school level to worry about dementia as the cause.

It would be a great shame if we lost the header in football, can't imagine the game without it. What do we do about this mounting evidence that heading the ball is harmful? Ban it? Play in helmets? Forget about it (eventually)?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@BigYen

I agree. I played centre-half at school and there was very little heading at a young age. There was more of it when I was playing aged maybe 15-18 but not like the pro game. 

As you said, it would be a pity if heading was taken out of the game. I still rate van Basten’s outrageous header as one of the best goals I’ve seen. 

https://youtu.be/tcj14kjCMbg

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Time to look at soft type helmets especially for school football and junior clubs. This would still allow headers to take.

For me, the greatest header of all time was the one scored by the Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker. Pure magic. Taken in the final minutes of the game at West Brom which we won in the 95th minute, 2-1.

He won the Liverpool Goal of the Season.

Watch his brilliance.

https://youtu.be/YadHmdsACzc

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In the US, more participants are injured playing soccer than football.

There is a definite need for protective equipment in soccer.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

neurological disease in former players

This is a tricky one. "Former players" played in an era with a much heavier ball. I think you'll also find that modern teams on nicer pitches and lighter balls keep the ball on the ground much more often. Most teams pass it out of defence now, without hoofing it long in the general direction of a target man. Sending in dozens of crosses, so-called "putting it in the mixer", is also seen as agricultural tactics used by managers and teams who've run out of ideas. A long ball is now seen as something likely to surrender possession to the opposition.

So potentially, thanks to advances in tactics and ball technology, this may not be the problem it was in Jeff Astle's day. Jeff Astle is the best-known victim of brain degeneration from heading the ball. It is also likely that Jeff Astle suffered numerous clashes of heads, knees and elbows to the face, and various other altercations in a rough-and-tumble age where partly or fully concussed players got a quick dab with a sponge and were expected to get on with it. Sports science and the rules of football have made great advances since then.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

In the US, more participants are injured playing soccer than football.

How many American footballers end up in wheelchairs and unable to walk?

Out of all sports, American footballers suffer the greatest number of injuries.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1941297/

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Thanks. I can now chalk down all those missed headers as a preventative health measure and not just a lack of skill.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Heading the ball out of defence? Must've done, I guess, but I don't remember much about that.

That lack of memory may indicate a problem. :-)

I also played centre half for a while as a kid, but I wasn't so good so they made me play goalkeeper. I should perhaps be thankful.

Time to look at soft type helmets

This was a conclusion of one study:

The football headgear models tested did not provide benefit during ball impact. This is probably because of the large amount of ball deformation relative to headband thickness. However, the headgear provided measurable benefit during head to head impacts.

https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/39/suppl_1/i40

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Thanks. I can now chalk down all those missed headers as a preventative health measure and not just a lack of skill.

Nice one.

Hope there is research into how damaging to the health shooting with the left foot is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Let's see.....get hit in the head thousands of times with a one pound ball traveling at up to 70 mph......nah, no problem there.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Research many moons ago, indicated the risk of dementia from 'heading the ball'. This is not a new revelation.

There was a move to ban headers decades ago. To do so, would not ruin the game, it would simply change the means of play to using one's feet and lower extremities. Nothing radical in that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why so limited to soccer? Football, Rugby, wrestling, boxing and other such kinds of sports are similar dangerous in regards to those head attacks or injuries leading to higher potential of contracting dementia.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

During the game is not the main issue. It's the constant practice that will do it. As a young 'un I used to practice headers for hours and hours with my mates, as did all young football fans. And the young still do.

And later on in life (not that late, even), memory loss is not the only problem. A bigger one is major changes in personality, and there had been much documented on this.

I think it's time for heading to be consigned to the rubbish bin of history.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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