Footballer’s Retirement Should Set 'Alarm Bells' Ringing says Headway
Footballer Kevin Doyle’s decision to retire aged 34 should set 'alarm bells' ringing within the FA, according to the brain injury association, Headway.
The Irish international forward released a statement last week confirming his retirement on medical grounds due to headaches brought on by heading footballs.
The strength of the link between football and degenerative neurological injury is still unclear but Headway has long petitioned the football authorities to instigate meaningful independent research into the possible link between heading footballs and brain injury.
Headway believes the authorities ‘have been dragging their feet on this for too long’ and ‘have questions to answer’.
A study published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica earlier this year showed football players may be prone to long-term brain damage due to repeated blows to the head. The research, conducted in collaboration between University College London and Cardiff University, involved the examination of six people who played football for an average of a quarter of a century.
In post-mortems it was discovered that all six developed dementia in their later years, while four showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE - a progressive, degenerative brain disease.
The former England international Jeff Astle died in 2002 aged only 59 and was confirmed in 2014 to be the first British professional footballer to die from CTE.
In March, the FA and PFA invited ‘independent researchers’ to present their proposals on whether or not football players are disproportionally affected by degenerative brain injuries, but definitive research and results are still a long way off.
The potential dangers of continuous, long-term sub-concussive blows stemming from heading the ball has already prompted US Soccer to outlaw heading for players up to the under-11 age group. The under-12 and under-13 age groups should be ‘limited to a maximum of 30 minutes of heading training per week, with no more than 15-20 headers per player, per week’.