August 8 – A leading authority on brain injuries has added his voice to growing calls, especially in the United States, for headers to be restricted in the professional game and to be banned for those under the age of 18.
“It does not make sense to control an object travelling at a high velocity with your head,” Dr Bennet Omalu, who discovered the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), told the BBC.
“I believe, eventually, at the professional level we need to restrict heading of the ball. It is dangerous. 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 in 2004 of former England and West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle ruled he died from brain trauma caused by heading heavy leather footballs in his playing days.
Several famous players of the same era are now suffering from dementia and speaking about the effects heading can have.
Omalu added: “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.”
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