Helping to get my head round dementia risk
AS a former professional footballer, I do have concerns about my future health.
How could I not? I must have headed the ball thousands and thousands and thousands of times. Surely that has had some sort of lasting impact.
Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer has tackled the issue this week with his BBC documentary, and it is only right that these things are researched further.
From being a kid, when I’d play three times at a weekend and twice during the week, through more than 600 professional matches and countless other friendlies along the way, the effect that must have had on my head.
It’s not so much when you catch a header sweetly – though even that can hurt – but when you don’t quite connect properly and you are left with a pounding pain.
Think of players who played during the 1950s and 1960s heading a rain-soaked leather ball too. That really must have lasting effects.
I praise anyone who tries to highlight this problem further, and those who are trying to determine if there is a causal link.
Should it turn out that there is, the solutions will be far from straightforward.
I certainly would not want to see heading banned completely. Excelling at heading is an art – just like curling in free-kicks or connecting sweetly with a volley. There is something poetic about seeing a top-class centre-forward power a header back across goal and into the back of the net.
But perhaps an age restriction does need to be brought in. Do kids under the age of 10 or 12 really want to be heading a football when they are growing rapidly?
It needs further research to determine these things, but I could certainly see the value in limiting when children can head a football.
Dementia is an awful disease and anything we can do to lessen its impact is essential.
Well done to Alan (right and the whole BBC team for this documentary – and I hope it helps deliver definitive answers to all the questions raised in the future.