Heading footballs can lead to serious health conditions according to study

A study suggests that footballers' head-butting on the football field could be the cause of neurological disorders.

© miodrag ignjatovic GETTY_IMAGES

With the World Cup in full swing, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has announced that it will restrict headers in training sessions after a study was published linking football (and in particular headers) to an increased risk of developing neurological diseases.

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Repetitive strain injury

Heading the ball may be spectacular, but it is far from being without consequences. It has been suspected for several years that high-level players who use their skulls to deflect and hit balls travelling at 100 km/h are more likely to develop brain abnormalities.

La Figaro reported in 2018:

This technical gesture is beginning to worry the medical world. Scientific literature shows that footballers who regularly play with their heads do not leave the field completely unscathed.
The contact with the ball causes a slight cranial trauma, dubbed 'sub-concussion'
football  matimix GETTY_IMAGES

Recent work by a team of researchers seems to have confirmed these suspicions.

Increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases

Conducted by the University of Glasgow, the FIELD study was motivated by the need to better understand the impact of contact sports on the neurobiological health of individuals. In a statement, the researchers explain:

Former professional football players were identified from pre- and post-war Scottish league player records.
These players were then matched to individuals from the general population, matched on gender (all male), year of birth and socioeconomic status (calculated using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) - providing us with a comparison group.

According to their work, the risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease is increased in former players; particularly those who played in defensive positions, or who had a long career. Dr John MacLean, the SFA's chief medical consultant, added:

Although the research is still developing, what we already know about headers and their effects on the brain suggests that there is a measurable impairment in memory that lasts for 24 to 48 hours after a series of headers

This article was translated from Gentside FR.

Sources used:

-FIELD Study- Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group

-Le Figaro:Quand le jeu de tête brouille le cerveau des footballeurs

-RFI: Heading restricted for Scottish clubs to minimise brain injury risk

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