Health – Sports. Football: what are the brain risks of headers?

In a newspaper interview Teamfootballer Raphaël Varane confides that he suffered several concussions during his career… And a few days later he was playing again without proper care.

Following a head trauma during a match against Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup, the defender explains that he was in “autopilot mode” and I don’t remember” match after this shock “.

Brain risks

The footballer’s fears seem to be justified. In fact, numerous studies have pointed to the risk of neurological disorders associated with heading in this sport.

Already in 2016, researchers from the University of Stirling (Scotland) demonstrated that memory capacity can be reduced by 41 to 67% within 24 hours after the main game.

But recently, in 2023, during the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Michael L. Lipton, professor of radiology at Columbia University, explained that “ There is huge concern about football-related brain injuries. This concern is related to the risk of neurodegeneration and dementia later in life “.

Higher risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease

The work echoes another publication from the University of Glasgow, this time published in 2020, which revealed that former professional footballers were more likely to suffer from dementia and other serious neurological conditions.

In this study, the authors compared the causes of death of more than 7,000 former professional football players. The risk of becoming a victim of a neurodegenerative disease – Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s – was thus more than threefold.

higher than the general population. At the time, researchers cited the case of Jeff Astle, a West Bromwich Albion forward and a 59-year-old victim of a neurodegenerative disease.

After an investigation, his death was reclassified as a work-related accident. The medical examiner opined that the cause of his death was repeated minor trauma.

The world champion hints in his interview “limit heads in training” AND “do everything possible to ensure that the main game takes place in the safest possible conditions”.

Ban head games for the little ones

Raphaël Varane also calls for better awareness, especially among young audiences. An element already taken into account on the other side of the Channel, in Scotland, where the National Football Association simply forbids heading before the age of 12

source: www.lequipe.fr – www.theguardian.com – University of Glasgow

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