Is heading a football dangerous?

Archive for the ‘Brain Injury’ Category

Is heading a football dangerous?

Posted on: March 7th, 2016 by Isobel Addison No Comments

Is repeatedly heading a football a “potentially dangerous thing to do”?

Geoff Twentyman’s film for Inside Out West is on BBC One in the West region at 19:30 GMT tonight and is then available on the BBC iPlayer for 28 days.

Ex-professional footballer Geoff Twentyman has made a film for the BBC considering the potential damage of heading footballs.

He has headed footballs countless times during his career, and his film explores his growing concerns about the practice.

He muses that as a lad he would head balls over and over again, to perfect the art and that during his football career he must have headed the ball tens of thousands of times.

He examines the now widely held belief that this was a potentially dangerous thing to do.

Geoff Twentyman played professionally for more than a decade.

His  father was also a pro in the 1950s, playing for Liverpool and during his final years he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.  This led Twentyman to wonder if the condition was in any way linked to his father’s playing career.

In 2013, Kevin Moore, a former team-mate at Bristol Rovers, died from Pick’s Disease ( a type of dementia) aged just 55. Twnetyman recalls that Kevin was the most powerful headers of a ball I’ve ever seen.  His widow Mandy also believes that  there is probably a link.

“Because of Kev’s position in the team his main function was to head a ball. He’d been doing that from a child until his late 30s I would think.

He would practice jumping from a corner cross over and over again.”

Chris Garland who played a significant role in the history of Bristol City was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1998 and over recent times has also developed Alzheimer’s.

He talks in his autobiography about his doctors linking his condition to his career as a footballer.

Last year, the decision was taken in the US to ban heading for children aged 10 and under after a class action was brought against the football authorities by a group of parents.

Neuroscientist Dr Michael Grey, from the University of Birmingham said “If it was my children I would not have them heading the ball at low ages….. I think from the point of safety for children it does make sense until we have definitive answers that we should take precautions such as that.”

Dr Grey believes the FA could be doing more and concludes that “What is clear is we need more research across the board and one thing is certain, there’s no shortage of money in football to fund it.”

He describes how the brain “wobbles” inside the skull and how the issue is critical for children who are still developing nervous systems and neuroprotection.

The Football Association  in the UK is prioritising ex-pros over children where neurological illness is concerned.

Dave Reddin, the FA’s head of performance services, said: “If we want to de-risk the game we could de-risk it in all sorts of ways.

“So what we’re doing on research is first of all taking the bigger question around the incidence of long-term brain injury in ex-professional footballers compared to the normal population,” he said.

“Beyond that I think there are some other questions that probably do deserve attention and one of those may be children and whether there needs to be any further research or rule adaptation as a result.”





Posted on: December 17th, 2015 by Isobel Addison No Comments

The NHS Choices website states that most cases of concussion occur in children and teenagers aged 5 to 14, with the two most common causes being sporting and cycling accidents. Falls and motor vehicle accidents are a more common cause of concussion in older adults.

The most common symptoms of concussion are: confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, feeling stunned or dazed, disturbances with vision and difficulties with memory.

People who regularly play competitive team sports such as football and rugby have a higher risk of concussion.


An inquest into the death of Jeff Astle, former England and West Bromwich Albion player, who died in 2002 aged 59, found that he had suffered death by industrial disease: his brain having been damaged by the repeated heading of heavy leather footballs.

We have seen only too often footballers suffer head injuries and then continue to play and a report into injuries suffered at the 2014 FIFA World Cup found that there were 1.68 injuries per match. 18% were head injuries and they included five concussions and three fractures. Almost all of the head injuries were caused by contact.


The RFU website suggests that about 25% of injuries during play are to the head (including concussions, cuts, bruises, and so on). Approximately it is thought in the professional game 1 concussion is suffered in every 3 games and in the amateur game the rate is 1 concussion in every 21 games.

We were saddened to read that Lily Partridge a 23 year old part-time teacher, zoo-worker and sportswoman lost her life earlier this month having suffered a head injury during a rugby match in Devon. Only last year Sarah Chesters, died over a month after suffering an injury whilst playing rugby. An inquest determined that Miss Chesters died from brain injuries thought to have been triggered by blunt force trauma to the side of the neck when she first sustained injury, caused by a tackle.

What to do?

The NHS Choices website recommends that you visit your nearest accident and emergency department if you or someone in your care has a head injury resulting in concussion and then develops any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • loss of consciousness from which the person then recovers
  • amnesia (memory loss)
  • persistent headaches since the injury
  • changes in behaviour – a particularly common sign in children under the age of five
  • confusion
  • drowsiness that goes on for longer than an hour when you would normally be awake
  • large bruise or wound to the head or face
  • prolonged vision problems
  • reading or writing problems
  • balance problems or difficulty walking
  • loss of power in part of the body, such as weakness in an arm or leg
  • clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears
  • a black eye with no other damage around the eye
  • sudden deafness in one or both ears

Head Injuries can, as evidenced by the sad stories of Lily Partridge and Sarah Chesters be devastating, very quickly. They may, as they proved to be for Jeff Astle, have long term health implications.

If you are in any doubt about head injuries of any kind, including concussional head injuries, you should seek medical advice.


Serious head injuries and crime

Posted on: December 10th, 2015 by Isobel Addison No Comments

Study suggests that many youngsters who commit crimes have sustained serious head injuries

A recent study suggests that many youngsters who commit crimes have sustained serious head injuries or have undiagnosed neurodevelopmental impairment.

A new report entitled Supporting young people with neurodevelopmental impairment published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and co-authored by Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan, and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, Dr Nathan Hughes, says that the youth justice system has become the primary service provider to a large number of young people with brain injuries and other brain impairments.

The authors argue that young people with brain injuries and impairments can behave in a confrontational or anti-social manner, putting them at risk of being criminalised for behaviours related to their underlying medical condition. In place of criminalising young people with brain injuries and impairments, the authors call for early and sustained interventions, led by health and education practitioners, to support young people whose medical conditions can be manifested in disruptive and confrontational behaviour, along with their families.

Serious head injuries prior to imprisonment are four times as common among young people in custody as among young people in the general population, the report finds.

Other findings include:

  • Between 60-90 % of young people in custody have a significant communication impairment, compared with only 5-7% among the general youth population.
  • 23-32 % of young people custody have a learning disability, compared with just 2-4 % in the general youth population.
  • 15 % of those in custody are on the autism spectrum, compared with only one per cent in the general youth population.

Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan, one of the report co-authors, said:

Clinical and research evidence supports the finding that a significant number of young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system have missed neurodevelopmental needs. Early recognition and support to young people and families may prevent secondary difficulties developing across a range of areas including education, health and social needs as well as impact on services. These findings strengthen the argument for a public health response through a more co-ordinated multi-agency approach across public sector services.

Dr Nathan Hughes, the other co-author of the report, said:

The research evidence clearly demonstrates a youth justice system that continues to criminalise and punish young people for the risks and vulnerabilities associated with neurodevelopmental impairment. What’s more, these young people are within the criminal justice system as a result of the failures of schools and health services to effectively support them and their families.

However, improved understandings of neurodevelopmental impairments also offer opportunities to address this, enabling screening and assessment to ensure earlier identification, and supporting practices and interventions that are responsive to learning and support needs.

Deborah Fortescue, Head of Foundation, The Disabilities Trust, who are launching a new case study video, Byron’s Story  to co-incide with the launch of the report said:

The evidence is clear, there are too many young people in the criminal justice system who have neurodevelopmental disorders, which are often unrecognised and subsequently undiagnosed.  We need to raise awareness, start screening for brain injury and educate people on the consequences of such disorders to enable them to support and divert people away from the criminal justice system wherever possible.  The earlier in the system this can happen the better.

Will McMahon, Deputy Director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said:

The criminal justice system cannot effectively address these issues. There needs to be a radical rethink of service provision that begins with the family and school and has no need of criminal justice intervention.

New Brain Rehab Centre set for Bristol

Posted on: December 3rd, 2015 by Isobel Addison No Comments

Frenchay Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre to build new hospital to expand its services

In May 2015 Frenchay Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre, Bristol began work to build a new hospital and expand its services to meet the demand for its specialist care and treatment for brain injured patients, both locally and throughout the South West.

Working in partnership with North Bristol NHS Trust, the Frenchay Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre provides specialist assessment, inpatient rehabilitation and therapy for adults and adolescents (16 years upwards) with brain injury. The centre has gained a national reputation for excellence in intensive rehabilitation for people who have suffered a brain injury and is currently the only provider of this type of neuro-rehabilitation service in the South West.

A number of our clients have received excellent care and rehabilitation at the centre which is staffed by an outstanding team.

The existing intensive 29 bed rehabilitation service will move to the new hospital. Typically patients requiring this service are transferred directly to the brain injury centre at Frenchay following treatment in an NHS acute hospital to stabilise their medical condition, but are in the very early stages of recovery from their brain injury. Many arrive at the centre with very complex and profound cognitive and physical impairments.

The plan is to construct a new hospital directly opposite the existing centre, which will also undergo a substantial refurbishment and modernisation programme with completion expected in Spring 2016.

Medical, nursing and therapy staff have worked with the architect on the design, fitments and equipment to provide the best support.

The new service will increase the number of beds available to 52.

The existing building will become a slower-stream rehabilitation service with capacity for 23 patients. This new service will benefit those patients who require a longer period of rehabilitation, treatment and support from the same inter-disciplinary team and the opportunity to practice independent living in a safe environment.

Lynn McLeish, Director of Brain Injury and Neurological Care Services for The Huntercombe Group, said: “We are all extremely pleased that the investment to build an additional new hospital at Frenchay will enable the clinical team to expand their remarkable work and to help more people who have suffered severe brain injury to get back as much as they can of their life and to return to living as closely as possible to the way they always have.”