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Children Should Not Head Footballs, Says Leading Neurosurgeon

Published : Friday August 15, 2014 | Posted in : General Health

As if England’s national side wasn’t playing badly enough, a leading neurosurgeon is trying to ban children from heading footballs. Maybe Emile Heskey was playing under this ban all along? If we had listened to this advice earlier, Peter Crouch would have trouble scoring any goals. What would become of the diving header?

Playing football and growing up in Britain go hand in hand. On the pitch, when your teammate curls in an inviting cross, it’s your duty to head it into the corner of the net. But now a top neurosurgeon has said children should be banned from heading a football because it’s too dangerous. Too dangerous? There’s only one foreseeable benefit from all this: perhaps banning headers on the pitch would mean the end of England’s infamous long ball game, leading to a more European tiki-taka style of football in our youth academies.

Doctor Michael Grey, a motor neuroscience expert at the University of Birmingham, says that when children head the ball, the impact of the brain against the skull causes harmful damage. He found that children’s neck muscles have not been developed enough to handle the shock of impact.

Other doctors are saying the same

Doctor Grey is not alone in his arguments. Several other high profile doctors have come forward to warn children about heading footballs. The news comes after scans demonstrated apparent damage to the brains of professional footballers. Doctor Grey told Sky News: “I’m not discouraging children from playing football because that helps the child obesity epidemic, but I’m unsure whether children as young as 8 or 9 should be using their head to control footballs.” It sounds like he’s turning the issue into a moral “grey” area.

Since the brain starts to bounce back and forth when it is struck with a football, children are supposedly at a higher risk of suffering damage to their heads. Doctors are unsure what age children’s necks become strong enough to withstand the movement of the head when it is impacted by a football.

Medical professionals were quick to present these finds as the Football Association issued new guidelines on concussion/head injuries. But it’s not all doom and gloom because research and animal experiments reveal mixed findings.

What else is Doctor Grey saying?

He continues: “We know some people are very susceptible to getting head injuries in these situations and some are quite resilient and we don’t know why yet.” We think an in-depth interview with Alan Shearer, Tony Adams and John Terry is well overdue. Terry’s brain seems to be functioning perfectly normally.

Grey added that parents and coaches need to be informed about secondary concussion syndrome and strict guidelines need to be adhered to. In short, we need to protect players from themselves.

What about wrapping children in cotton wool and banning football to be on the safe side? Maybe then neurosurgeons can write a study about the breathing difficulties kids experience from cotton wool?

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