The Chaplain for Sport has played down the dangers of heading a football as a study confirmed it caused concussion among players.
Researchers in the US found footballers who headed the ball a lot were three times more likely to suffer concussion symptoms than those who did not.
Until now heading a football has generally been regarded as harmless, with collisions between players blamed for most cases of concussion but lead researcher, Dr Michael Lipton, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said the study has now confirmed that heading the ball is related to concussion symptoms, which is contrary to a recent study that suggested that collisions were responsible for most concussions.
“The findings raise concerns about the long-term effects from heading the ball, and more research is needed,” he added. However, Mgr Vladimir Felzmann, who is also CEO for the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, told The Universe that he would take the findings with a pinch of salt.
“More research would be needed to convince people of the dangers of heading the current much lighter footballs,” he said. “In the fifties when thick leather balls soaked up plenty of water and weighed a ton, the dangers may have been there – yet my brain seems okay.”
Mgr Felzmann also pointed out the health of retired footballers as evidence that the dangers are minimal.
“Look at past players on the screen – the pundits commenting on football – who must have headed the ball many times, they seem to be none the worse for wear. Maybe very young, as yet incomplete brains, need to be careful not to head fast flying balls too often but in general, as long as head-clashes are avoided the beautiful game is safe enough to continue as it currently is played.”
The study looked at adult amateur footballers who played for at least six months of the year in New York city.
Of 222 players, men recalled an average of 44 headers in two weeks and women 27. One or more unintentional head impacts were reported by 37 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women.
Among those who had suffered head impacts, a fifth had moderate to severe symptoms.
Players who had headed the ball the largest number of times were three times more likely to have symptoms than those who headed the ball the least.
The study appears in the latest online issue of the journal, Neurology.
This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:
Saturday 11th February
Arsenal v Hull City – 12:30pm
Manchester United v Watford – 3:00pm
Middlesbrough v Everton – 3:00pm
Stoke City v Crystal Palace – 3:00pm
Sunderland v Southampton – 3:00pm
West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion – 3:00pm
Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur – 5:30pm
Sunday 12th February
Burnley v Chelsea – 1:30pm
Swansea City v Leicester City – 4:00pm
Monday 13th February
Bournemouth v Manchester City – 8:00pm
Picture: Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus headers moments before scoring his second goal in Manchester City’s 2-1 Premier League win against Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, on Sunday 5th February. (Martin Rickett PA Wire/PA Images).