A number of former professional footballers in England have joined a campaign that points to the dangers of heading. With a seven-point action plan, more safety can be ensured in the short term.
First club reports to implement measures
Recent research has shown that professional football players are 3.5 times more likely than others to develop serious brain disorders. Of the English team that became world champion in 1966, five players have now developed dementia.
Single England international Chris Sutton is one of the campaign’s champions. His father Mike, who also played professional football, suffers from severe dementia. “It’s not going to save my father and I don’t know what to expect, but maybe I will help my children with this”, the former striker of Chelsea and Celtic told BBC Radio.
Sutton is the newspaper’s columnist Daily Mail, which earlier this week drew up a seven-point list to prevent brain damage in soccer players. Former top striker Gary Lineker, among others, supports these measures.
“I never made headlines in my youth because I was aware of the dangers,” says Lineker in the Daily Mail. Still, he was a good header and he scored 15 of his 48 international goals with the head.
One of the elements of the campaign is to limit the number of headers at training sessions to a maximum of twenty. Amateur club Wroxham announced on Wednesday that it was the first to implement this measure for all its teams.
Mark Bright, former striker of Leicester City and Crystal Palace, among others, does not let his players head down as a youth coach of the latter club. “Those balls come to the children at 50 or 60 kilometers per hour, who themselves run towards them at 10 or 15 kilometers per hour. Then you can verify that there is a significant impact,” says Bright.
“I have studied the studies of dementia and football players and since then it feels like a duty to contribute to change. The game has given me a lot and now I want to give something back.”
In the United States, rules about heads have been in place since 2015. Children up to eleven years old will not head there at all tomorrow, youth football players from thirteen years only during matches.