New calls to ban ‘heading’ in football for under-18s

Academics have once again called on football chiefs to ban ‘heading’ in football for under-18s to reduce the risk of long-term brain injury.

Dr Bennet Omalu, a leader in brain injury research, said consistent heading of the ball can cause a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The call follows a number of research reports demonstrating the increased risk of serious brain trauma while playing football, as well as increasing the risk of dementia in later life.

In a previous study, researchers studied the brains of five professional footballers. It found that all of the athletes went on to develop dementia in their 60s.

Revealing the findings of the study, Professor Huw Morris, of University College London, said: “When we examined their brains at autopsy we saw the sorts of changes that are seen in ex-boxers, the changes that are often associated with repeated brain injury which are known as CTE.

“So really for the first time in a series of players we have shown that there is evidence that head injury has occurred earlier in their life which presumably has some impact on them developing dementia.”

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Omalu has prompted further calls to ban the act of heading the ball for players under the age of 18.

“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. It is dangerous.”

He continues: “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.”

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