Nov 23, 2020 - Sports

England players' union wants fewer headers amid concerns about brain injury diseases

L to R: Dennis Viollet, Bobby Charlton and Johnny Giles in 1960. Photo: Hutchinson/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

The union representing soccer players in England says that heading in training sessions "must be immediately restricted."

Why it matters: This comes amid growing concerns about brain injury diseases among former professional players.

  • Five of the 11 starters from England's 1966 Word Cup-winning team have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other neurodegenerative diseases.
  • That includes Bobby Charlton (pictured above), who was recently diagnosed with dementia, and his brother, Jack, who died after being diagnosed.

By the numbers: A 2019 study found former male professional soccer players were 3.5 times more likely to die from Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

What they're saying: "In the short term, football [soccer] cannot carry on as it is," said PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.

  • "There is a big issue here, and based on the increasing evidence available, it is clear we need to take immediate steps to monitor and reduce heading."
  • England manager Gareth Southgate recently said he fears getting dementia after his 18-year playing career, and former player Tony Cascarino went so far as to say that heading will be gone from the sport by 2040 (subscription).

The backdrop: In January, soccer officials in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland banned heading at practice for kids under 12, following the lead of the U.S. Soccer Federation, which in 2016 banned heading for kids under 11.

Go deeper: Why women's soccer players are worried about their brains (B/R)

Go deeper