#HeadsUp: Consider a ban on children under 10 heading balls in youth football
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"Football cannot survive as the world's most popular sport if it fails to address the dangers of catastrophic brain injury among its players" - Bennet Omalu
While heading the ball is a fundamental aspect of football, I'm petitioning the Government to consider looking at a ban on it for children under the age of 10 in local schools, and to provide better and in-depth education on head/brain injuries in sport and raise awareness about the impact these injuries can have later on in life.
Dubbed "sport's silent scandal" by the family of former West Brom defender Jeff Astle, who famously died in 2002 from early onset dementia caused by heading footballs, there is growing concern amongst professionals that current and former footballers will suffer long-term or even fatal illnesses from this seemingly innocuous aspect of football.
A 2016 study by researchers at the University of Stirling identified significant changes in brain function in routine practice from heading a ball, and this has been evidenced by footballs governing body FIFA itself. 19 footballers took part in a study in which they were required to head the ball 20 times, and had their brain function and memory tested before and after.
The study proved that increased inhibition in the brain was detected after just a single session, and memory test performance was reduced between 41% and 67% - with effects normalising within 24 hours.
George Cohen, a member of England's 1966 World Cup winning side, called for change and claimed the old leather balls were "nasty." His calls for change are backed up by claims that half the surviving team of the 1966 World Cup squad have dementia or memory loss, including Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters.
Jeff Astle died aged 59 after his battle with dementia. Re-examination of his brain found that he was suffering from the neurological-degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) - which is only discoverable after death and has been found in deceased American footballers, rugby players and boxers. His family set up the Jeff Astle Foundation in 2015 to both raise awareness of brain injury in sport and to offer support to those who need it.
Let's protect tomorrow's players today.
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