Reduced brain functions, concussions, and Alzheimer’s among players would be caused by head butts. In the UK they were banned to children under 12 years of age.
Heading the ball has been a part of football since the beginning of the sport. Zarra, Pelé, Gigi Riva, Santillana, Zamorano, Bierhoff, Borgetti, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ramos… several have made history with their frentazos.
But in recent years it has been pointed out that these types of actions can cause brain problems, from simple concussions to Alzheimer’s.
And no matter how the balls changed from the tough brown leather of the past to the softer material of the present. The headbutt always involves these kinds of risks.
A study from Liverpool Hope University pointed out that just heading a ball 20 times can lead to concussions.
Researchers tested the effects of head butts on 30 amateur footballers ages 18 to 21. They determined, thanks to the King-Devick test, the effects they produce on the brain.
This is the King-Devick test to evaluate concussions of the brain
The King-Devick test is a detection method concussion in which the athlete reads single digits on cards or a digital tablet. If there is a suspicion of trauma, the athlete performs the two-minute test.
With this test, eye movements, speech, language and concentration are checked, looking for signs of alterations resulting from the concussion.
Participants practiced with soft (9.8 pounds per square inch, a unit of pressure) and hard (16.2 pounds) balls.
The test revealed an increase in reading errors after a certain number of headshots.
Usually, after a heading, if the time required for an athlete to complete the test increases by three seconds from their normal values, a possible concussion is taken into account.
« The group with the higher pressure ball showed more problems than the other, » said Jake Ashton of Liverpool Hope University. « With the cognitive tests there was a significant reduction in verbal and spatial working memory. »
« Although more research is needed, it is also necessary to establish measures to limit head butts, » he stressed.
In the UK, children under 12 are prohibited from heading soccer balls in practice. Meanwhile, those under 18 have a restricted number of head butts.
The Liverpool Hope University study was published in the journal Science and Medicine in Football.
Senility among the 1966 world champions
Fear of the effects of head butts resurfaced After the Death, this year, from the 1966 world champion, Nobby Stiles.
A former midfielder, Stiles died at age 78 of complications from dementia.
Of the champion squad in England 66, several died after mental deterioration. Peter Bonetti, Martin Peters, Ray Wilson and Gerry Byrne, in addition to Stiles, suffered from the same illness.
Sir Bobby Charlton, the leader of that generation, was diagnosed this year with senile dementia.