A Beautiful game? Not anymore.

By Ryan Gilbert

The world without football would be a disaster. So many hours are put into the game, with practice and games, players do a lot in a game. The game is made around many techniques, such as dribbling, passing and shooting. However, one aspect of the game has not been looked at that may affect the game we love. In the past few years, researchers were looking for a link between dementia and football.

The topic has been brought up by the former England Striker Alan Shearer in a recent BBC documentary, Dementia, Football and Me. Meeting a few retired players, that had suffered from dementia and soon realised that dementia does not just horribly affect the person, it affects the people around them as well.  

Towards the end of 2017, the Professional Football Association banned children under the age of 11 from heading footballs until the long-term health risks are better understood. Now the rule has been in use in The United States as the under-11 team are banned from heading. The PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor had agreed with the slight rule change in the U.S.

“Heading is really being practised less and less when you see the way the game has changed. In the 1950s and 1960s when they had the old balls, when they were soaked they were particularly heavy.”

In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Germany’s Christoph Kramer collided heads and appeared to have a concussion, and told he told the German Newspaper Die Welt, that he couldn’t remember much of the game. Then we ask was he even fit for the game?

But why has FIFA not taken more action with this?

FIFA claimed that they have not found a direct link between football and dementia YET and don’t see why the US have banned kids under 11 from heading. Professor Dvorak from FIFA claimed that, “Football does not belong to the high-risk sports for brain and head injuries.” Yet US Soccer and FIFA has had 50,000 cases of brain injuries among high schools in 2010. More than any other college sports in the US.

In any American sport, Kramer would have been removed from the game and there would’ve been a proper assessment on him. In the NFL there are concussion evaluators on each sideline to eliminate the uncertainty the physicians have.

Physiotherapists on the sidelines won’t help the player with bad injuries especially any time of head blows. I’m sure they understand what could be wrong, but they do have uncertainty as they might not be qualified with brain injuries like a concussion evaluator like the NFL.

More than 265 million people play football which makes it the most popular sport in the world. More research and action are needed to be shown to prove a direct link, but even if there is uncertainty on whether or not heading footballs leads to dementia, there should be action taken to protect the players and have systems to identify a problem.

4 thoughts on “A Beautiful game? Not anymore.

  1. Curtis Hegge

    There is a lot of evidence showing the damage that a traumatic brain injury (TBI) does not have to be as bad as once though to have adverse reactions to the brain. Dementia, Alzheimer’s and other brain degenerative diseases need to be looked at carefully in all sports to ensure that athletes at all levels can play the sport they love and be able to maintain good health into their later years.

    I think the more we know about TBI’s the more that ex-athletes that have had concussions have to be very concerned about their health and wellbeing. Research has shown diet can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with both Dementia and Alzheimers. Clearly, more research needs to be done to protect all athletes.

  2. Emily Besley

    What an interesting topic, Ryan! To be honest, before I read this article, I only associated traumatic brain injury with high impact sports like American football. Now I know that brain injury can occur in soccer as well. I certainly would support greater regulation to prevent head injury on the part of FIFA in the future.

  3. Alison Lewis

    Football indeed is hugely important to the lives of people all over the world, as you said, but players need to be safeguarded so that they have good quality of life after retiring from the game. Thanks for driving this point home.
    Great article!

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