To “clear” the ball, footballers use several techniques. There is the pass, long or short, made with the feet or the right head shot. It is precisely this action, which worries health professionals, in particular because of the risk of violent shocks.

A recent study, led by the University of Glasgow, makes connections between head game actions and health risks.

These results support the conclusions of another university survey, published in 2019, which already showed that retired footballers were almost three times more likely to die from a degenerative disease than the rest of the population.

Read also: Multiplying heads in football triples the risk of concussion

Defenders on the front line

Another conclusion: not all players take the same risk on the pitch. The risks of neurodegenerative disease in goalkeepers are no higher than in the average population, this research points out.

On the other hand, they are four times higher among field players, and five times higher among defenders. The latter are more prone to injury. Why ? According to the researchers, this is explained by their game. They have a more frequent use of heads.

Read also: Rugby: new rules to avoid violent shocks

Change the style of play?

The risk factor for dementia or neurodegenerative disease is clearly identified here and can be completely eliminated.“said Willie Stewart, even going so far as to advocate radical changes in the practice of the most popular sport in the world, such as the reduction or even the disappearance of heads.

I have never had the proof that putting a head butt in a balloon is beneficial (for health). The practice of football is great because it decreases the number of cancers and cardiovascular diseases, but it can also cause terrible dementias and I do not see any benefit in that.“, he continues.

Prevention from an early age

If the study only concerns professional players for the moment, the question also arises for the youngest players.

In 2020, UEFA had already taken up the issue by publishing guidelines for the head game in junior football. The organization recommended limiting head play among aspiring footballers, and better monitoring concussion symptoms.