Football cannot look the other way on brain disease


The SFA’s impending ban on under-12s heading the ball in training is European football’s first step in reacting to the research into brain disease and death toll of former footballers from dementia.  The most comprehensive study into the subject, conducted at Glasgow University, found footballers more than three times more likely to die from degenerative brain disease than the rest of the population.

The problem for the game’s administrators is that it will take decades for the consequences of what is happening now in the game to be measurable.  Footballs are lighter than they were 40 years ago.  This may reduce the incidence of brain disease, but we will not know anytime soon.

The decision to exclude under-12s is arbitrary; there is no evidence that children under-12 are any more vulnerable than older children.  Conversely, we know they cannot fire the ball into the air with the same force.  It therefore seems unlikely this decision will have any impact on the health of football players, more it is an acceptance that, faced with scientific evidence, football needs to do something.

The game will change before this matter is finished.  Balls may become lighter or rules on heading could become complicated.  Research suggests that the genetic makeup of some people make them more prone to suffer degenerative brain disease following head trauma than others.  We could soon be able to find out which players have a genetic profile that makes them vulnerable from heading the ball.

There is plenty for the administrators, clubs and players’ unions to do in this area.  We have lost too many heroes to look the other way.

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  1. Tomorrow P67 is going to post about what the SFA must do to tackle climate change…meanwhile the transfer window meanders on.

  2. I am sure I read a report recently that pointed out that despite the balls being lighter, the problem remains – the combination of fitter, more powerful players means the ball is travelling much faster than before which multiplies the damage caused when your head gets in the way.

  3. At primary, I played right back for the school team. Often the opposition goalkeeper would clear a ball, a brick had mouldmaster, to about the center line. I was good at heading the ball and was encouraged to head it straight back into their 18 yard box. I sometimes felt stunned by the impact.



    More science is needed to see if there are any causal links between heading the ball at a young age, especially repeated heading in training, and the increased risk of dementia onset but this is a sensible move by the SFA in the meantime.

  4. The Battered Bunnet on

    I’ve spent more time on the touchline at kids’ football matches than I could guess at, both as a pushy parent and as a coach, and I’d say the number of times a kid under 12 years old heads the ball in a given match is minimal. Perhaps two or three times in a match.



    In part, this is a consequence of the passing game favoured by virtually all teams from the earliest ages, and in part it’s a natural outcome of kids being unable to kick the ball any distance.



    As the kids grow so the distance and height they can kick the ball increases, and heading becomes more frequent accordingly. By 14 years old a keeper can hit the halfway line with a bye kick, and by 16 with a bye kick. At that point the kids playing centre half and centre forward are heading the ball 10 or more times per match, being able to head it at all is a prerequisite to playing those positions, and training factors for this.



    While banning heading in younger kids is laudable, it’s unlikely to have an impact other than short corners and suchlike becoming more prevalent, perhaps further moving the focus towards ball skills at those age groups.



    The concern is that kids’ brains go through a remarkable growth and transition throughout puberty, and if heading the ball causes damage – as the evidence suggests it does – the last thing you want is for the damage to be done during adolescence.



    If a ban is to be introduced, ban it until the kids turn 18.


    The concern

  5. The Battered Bunnet on

    I’m going to have to start reading my posts before I hit the send button…



    “By 14 years old a keeper can hit the halfway line with a kick from hand, and by 16 with a bye kick.”

  6. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    The most comprehensive study into the subject, conducted at Glasgow University, found footballers more than three times more likely to die from degenerative brain disease than the rest of the population.



    Does that include the female population ?


    One would hope not .

  7. TIMALOY29 on 16TH JANUARY 2020 2:09 PM


    Gerrard has said the huns will sign nobody in this window






    He did, of course leave in the caveat, of someone ‘big’ leaving.



    That someone ‘big’ is of course fatso senor Morelos of angrytown, Govan.



    I fully expect him to have a ‘for sale’ sign on his fat arse shorts in the latter half of January to get him out the door.

  8. One would imagine it would be possible to invent some light head gear to absorb & minimise the impact of ball on head,


    For almost a century hurling was played here with no headgear, When it was initially proposed to introduce it there was a lot of resistance from the old school.


    It has been mandatory for years now and the game is as good as ever it was, if not even better.

  9. Seems that there is a bit of a stooshie in France over the refereeing of the Monaco-PSG game, which PSG won 4-1 (this was a fair reflection of the overall game). 3 of the goals were subject to VAR, and now they are being critisised. In particular, the penalty which led to PSG’s second goal is as obvious a dive as you can get. The game was held up for around 2 minutes for one of the VAR decisions, and I got the impression that rather than being informed by VAR, the referee allowed himself to be overruled by it. Of course, the spectators in the stadium were completely cut out of what was happening.



    VAR is here to stay, but we need to learn how to use it, otherwise it ruins the spectacle for the attending sepctators; it really means that TV viewers get a better overall understanding of what has happened than those in the stadium.



    However, Mbappè was just on a different level. I can’t imagine there is a more dangerous attacker in the world today, and he didn’t particularly break sweat last night.

  10. They’ll not get the transfer fee they want for Morelos. He’s going nowhere this season imo.



    The obvious caveat is if they’ve completely exhausted all their financing options to plug that ten million hole. In which case they’ll sell anyone. Dave has always found money from somewhere though so I expect him to get it from somewhere without resorting to selling players.

  11. Yer man Phil’s latest puff piece is just dreadful. “I understand” galore……



    he hasn’t a scoobie what’s going on but another circling vulture looking for the Celtic buck….



    Sporar’s club publically acknowledged we hadn’t gone in with an offer.


    Now we’re exchanging Bayo for Shankland….as if DUFC can afford the wages of a long term contract..


    Talk about 2+2=nonsense…

  12. Maybe the knuckle crackers at Hampden could do more to clamp down on assaults to the head on Celtic players while they’re at it, Tierney & Christie both at hampden

  13. glendalystonsils on

    Apricale on 16th January 2020 2:22 pm



    I was lurking on here last night when somebody posted what a cracking thrill-a-minute game this was . I rushed through to switch on the telly only to be faced with an interminably long 3 minute VAR break in play!


    Hellish for players and fans alike . Definitely the downside of VAR when decisions take that long.

  14. The ban of heading the ball for U’12s is a sensible move.


    Most definitely long over due.


    The game continually evolves. For young players they will be concentrated on keeping the ball on the deck. That in itself will be a good discipline to instil from a young age.

  15. chicagobhoy1967 on

    USWNT players have campaigned to eliminate heading the ball among girls until they’re older (Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, Michelle Akers and Brandi Chastain have pledged to donate their brains for study.) Experts speculate that girls’ neck muscles develop later than boys’, perhaps a large factor.



    University of North Carolina researchers found (American) football had the highest concussion rate, with 10.4 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures, followed by girls soccer with 8.19 concussions. Boy soccer players had a much lower rate of 3.57 concussions.




  16. The Partick Thistle game should take care of itself, regardless of who we put out on the pitch. Beyond that game, the concern surely will be (I would imagine) options out wide.



    Sinclair gone


    Morgan gone


    Elyanoussi injured


    Johnston injured / not fully fit



    What’s our options : Forrest wide right or wide left


    Johnny Hayes.. all be it, a reverted left-back this last 8 months or so.


    Arzani + Shved… 2 guys still to prove their fitness. In terms of 1st team ready.



    Have a missed anyone ?


    Short on options I reckon.

  17. Pity the SFA wont deal with the corruption they have sitting in front of them, throat cutting gestures that are ignored and their cliquey ways continue, they get no praise from me.

  18. RUGGYGMAN on 16TH JANUARY 2020 3:22 PM



    You literally named 5 left-wingers at the club.



    Elyounoussi and MJ hardly have season-ending injuries.



    Arzani & Shved are untested but so is any new signing.



    Celtic won quite a few games on the bounce with Forrest on the left or having Boli as a wing back.



    Not sure having 6 players for every position is a viable policy.

  19. Give Shved a go against Thistle and see how we go



    CONEYBHOY gave another couple of options too.

  20. Timaloy29



    You’ve maybe picked me up wrong.



    That wasn’t really my point. I’m fully aware Elyounoussi and M.J do not have season ending injuries .



    And I’m not sure that I did, list 5 or 6 left wingers.



    From what I’ve seen, Shved and Arzani operate on the right.



    I am also aware that N.L has deployed Forrest on the left a fair bit recently. With Christie on the right.



    Point remains, we are short of options, wide left immediate to short term.

  21. Big Wavy @ 2:19:



    `I fully expect him to have a ‘for sale’ sign on his fat arse shorts… `




  22. Thistle doesn’t concern me per say.


    But the stack of premiership fixtures that will then hit us beyond this weekend.



    Talk of playing Griffiths wide left… really ?


    Are we serious about winning this title.



    I can at least be thankful that some fans aren’t in the manager hotseat.

  23. The hands cant hit what the eyes cant see on

    @ TIMALOY29 on 16TH JANUARY 2020 3:36 PM



    Shved is a right winger and I think Arzani is as well.



    MJ was out for around 3 months and then intermittently in the team for December- NL said he couldn’t play week in week out. If his injury record keeps up for the rest of the season, he will be lucky to make 10 appearances between now and the end of the year. ME has not trained since the cup final and had his foot in a boot- I doubt we will see him until well into Feb.



    At present we have one fit, reliable winger- JF. Shved was further down the pecking order than Morgan who we have punted for the princely sum of £300k. Arzani has 30 senior appearances in his whole career (split over 2 seasons). He is a complete unknown and has been out injured for 14 months with a serious knee issue. We have managed to get two off the wage bill.



    We need a quality winger to provide real competition in the team and to manage risk.



    Given all that is at stake this season, our transfer business is once again underwhelming. The money sitting in the bank will dissipate like snow off a dyke if we fail to win the league this year. Use it or lose it comes to mind.

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