According to one leading expert on brain injuries, the old footballing phrase “Put it in the mixer” could very well soon be a thing of the past.
Dr Bennet Omalu believes that heading a football could lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that has long-term effects caused by repeated head trauma.
“It does not make sense to control an object travelling at a high velocity with your head,” said Dr Omalu. “I believe, eventually, at the professional level we need to restrict heading of the ball. It’s dangerous.”
Omalu, who was speaking to BBC Radio 5 also added that kids between 12 and 18 should not head the ball at all.
“I know this is difficult for many people but science evolves. We change with time. Society changes,” he added. “It is time for us to change some of our ways.”
While numerous ex-players have been diagnosed with dementia, the link between the disease and heading a football hasn’t been completely clear. However, in 2004, an inquest into the death of former England and West Brom footballer Jeff Astle ruled he died from brain trauma cased by heading heavy leather footballs.
“The human brain floats like a balloon inside your skull so when you head the ball you suffer brain damage,” explains Omalu. “You damage your brain when you head the ball.”
A number of sports have actively been trying to combat head injuries.
Concussion substitutes have been introduced to county cricket this summer, while rugby union have introduced an eight-point plan to make the sport safer in March.
In 2017, it was debated whether rugby tackling should be banned in schools and only four years ago a federal judge approved a settlement that would see thousands of former US football players compensated for concussion-related injuries.
It seems this is debate that isn’t going away any time soon.