Help­ing to get my head round de­men­tia risk

The Chronicle - - Mickquinn -

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.

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