Ban heading in football?

Brain injury expert: headers should be banned for under 18s

South China Morning Post

Ban tackling in rugby, heading in football - why not ban sport altogether?

Yes, sport can be dangerous and children can get hurt, sometimes seriously – but the benefits far outweigh the risks

Thankfully, common sense prevailed last week when a Hong Kong District Court judge dismissed a civil suit brought by a mother of a boy injured in a football match back in 2013.

The boy, then eight, broke an eye socket when he was kicked in the face and his mother wanted HK$223,000 in compensation.

Absolute nonsense, anybody who’s played football would reply, but in a city often seemingly clueless about sport, a daft judgment from a daft judge might not have surprised.

Well done then to judge Winnie Tsui Wan-wah, who said it would be “against the common sense of any ordinary person who plays soccer” that kids should have to wear helmets or goggles to play, the mother’s suggestion.

You do wonder about mum’s motivation, especially since it apparently took her two years to decide only some cash could finally heal her little angel.

But even if she only wanted to “ensure the safety” of other kids, it still speaks to a strange thread in the zeitgeist of putting “safety” – in body and in mind – above all else.

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Does playing football cause dementia?

As the Professional Footballers' Association teams up with experts to produce a guide to help former players and their families, NHS England's National Clinical Director for Dementia examines the links between the beautiful game and the devastating illness:

There has been much interest recently about the association between the development of dementia and playing football.

This is described in the context of the repeated action of heading the ball. What is the evidence for this and what can or should we do?

Dementia is an umbrella term with many different causes - Alzheimer's disease is probably the most recognisable and best known. In practice, particularly in older people, there can be evidence of several different types in the same person – the shrinkage of particular regions of the brain as seen in Alzheimer’s disease, vascular changes similar to those which cause strokes or the effects of trauma.

It has been known for some time that major head injury is a significant risk factor for developing dementia later in life. A significant blow to the head associated with loss of consciousness does seem to cause changes in the brain and predisposes to the later development of dementia, separate to any acute effects on memory, orientation and behaviour directly as a result of a blow to the head.

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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.

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