How dangerous is heading a football?

The sport of football might be called so owing to the fact that the bulk of the action takes place with the players using their feet, but heading forms an integral part of the beautiful game as well. Be it scoring a goal, making a pass, or defending the goal, all the players on a football field use their head at various instances to make a play.

Bruises the brain

There is, however, growing concern over heading a football and the potential damage that it can cause to the players. Typically, a football weighs about half-a kilogram. Scientists have calculated that at the highest level of the game, footballs can strike a players head at over 100 km/hour. When the ball strikes the head at those speeds, the brain, which floats within the skull cavity, can bounce against the walls of the skull, thereby becoming bruised.

A single header will likely not create significant damage. Professional footballers, though, are exposed to extended periods of heading the ball, and the combined effect of these could lead to problems.

The issue has been delved into this century with growing research on the subject. A research in 2019 showed that footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of dementia when compared to people of the same age group in the general population. Even though there is no direct evidence that indicates that heading the ball is the root cause of dementia, many countries are taking steps already, before the final verdict (which requires long-term research) is out

Protecting children

In 2020, new guidelines were passed in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland that stated that children aged 11 and under would no longer be taught to head footballs in training. Additionally, the guidelines stated that the intensity of heading in training would be increased in a phased manner among older children as well, based on their age. With no clear answer to the question whether heading is the reason footballers are more prone to dementia, it does make sense to be cautious, and play it more safely.


Picture Credit : Google

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