Trends & Features

The link between playing football and brain injuries

With so much media attention on campaigns surrounding the link between football and dementia, there’s been a lot of interest in answering the question – can heading a ball during a football match cause any brain damage? The answer is complicated, and it has led to investigations worldwide about the potential link between playing football and brain injury.
Heading is an important manoeuvre in football and is unlikely to go anywhere soon, however, we need to know to make the sport safer for those who play. Here is what you need to know about the relationship between playing football and potential brain injury:

Brain injury in professionals
In recent years, it has been highlighted that professional footballers have been impacted by brain injury as a result of their careers. In fact, studies show that modern footballers could be at greater risk of head injury than their predecessors so it’s a cause for concern, especially for the Football Association and its players.
England and West Brom player, Jeff Astle, is a tragic example. He suffered from Alzheimer’s for years after a long career almost two decades earlier before passing away at the age of 59. Astle was not the only one to suffer. Rod Taylor, the former wing-half for Portsmouth, passed away in January 2002 after suffering a brain injury following the end of his career.

Statistics support the link
More and more time is being spent investigating the link between heading the ball and brain damage, along with steps that can be taken to avoid it, due to rising concerns. The relationship between both factors has been confirmed repeatedly, along with staggering figures about the rate of injury.

An important study conducted by the University of Glasgow in 2019 found that ex-footballers were five times more likely to develop types of dementia such as Alzheimer’s and had a death rate due to neurological disease that was three and half times higher than the general population.

Recent awareness
Not only has there been an increase in studies about football and brain injury, but the same can be said about individuals speaking out about it and seeking compensation. Sunderland manager, Tony Mowbray, recently organised a Head for Change football match that focused on raising awareness about football-related brain injuries by excluding heading during the match.

This has led to a number of ways to combat the issue which encouraged individuals to come forward to make brain injury claims and receive compensation. The Football Association has also put strict measures in place to prevent brain injuries such as concussions and rehabilitation steps to make sure footballers are properly cared for.

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