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Is heading safe?

Footballers like Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andy Carroll are players who have great heading skill. We’re sure that at some point in your life, you would have tried to attempt it during training sessions or matches, right? Check out the possible consequences of heading.

Heading Statistics

Let’s talk facts first, shall we?

Do you know that professional footballers head the ball on an average of 6 to 12 times each game? Most footballers would have headed the ball at least 2000 times during a 20-year career and suffered injuries like head-player contact, head-ball contact while doing it.

Heading is estimated to cause between 31 and 37 percent of concussions among youth footballers and at the college level, about 5.8 percent of injuries recorded are related to concussions among male footballers and about 8.6 percent of injuries are suffered by female footballers.

Injuries related to heading

Credit: Reuters

The no hands rule has left footballers with no choice but to use their head. However, recent studies suggest that heading could contribute to negative impacts on your long-term health. You are most likely to suffer from,

  • Impaired planning and memory
  • Visuoperceptual performance impairments
  • Dementia
  • Brain damage

The science behind these injuries

Credit: Medical Xpress

A football weighs about half a kilogram and can strike a player’s head up to 128km/h which can generate about 150 times the force of gravity. When a ball strikes the player’s head, kinetic energy is transmitted to the brain floating within the skull cavity causing it to bruise.

Dr Bennet Omalu, one of the world’s leading experts on brain injuries said “The human brain floats like a balloon inside your skull so when you head the ball you suffer brain damage. You damage your brain when you head the ball”.

Cases in the past

Credit: birminghammail

A former England and West Brom footballer, Jeff Astle died from brain trauma, he suffered from Alzheimer’s for almost 10 years following his 18-year football career.

Dr Omalu thinks that heading should be restricted in the professional game and banned for those under the age of 18.

Prevention against head injuries

Credit: Medscape

It could take some time before a law against heading is passed, thus, there are a few method footballers can take in an effort to prevent any unwanted injuries from happening such as,

  • Use protective headbands
  • Always use your forehead between eyebrows and the hairline while heading
  • Make sure to balance yourself with arms while heading
  • Place yourself in the ball’s line of flight while doing it
  • Make sure to struck not bounce off the head
  • Bend knees for balance

Make sure you take all the precautions before heading as it may affect your health in the long run.

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