Young Aussie kids should be BARRED from heading soccer balls, says leading doctor

Young Aussie kids should be BARRED from heading the ball when they play soccer to protect them from brain injury, says leading doctor: ‘Why are we putting them through it?’

  • Junior players in Australia shouldn’t be heading soccer balls
  • That’s the view of Dr Adrian Cohen, a concussion researcher
  • Dr Cohen believes it makes kids susceptible to brain injuries
  • Concussion is a highly debated issue in other footy codes 

A leading doctor is adamant young Australian players should be barred from repeatedly heading soccer balls as it makes them susceptible to brain injuries.

NSW-based Dr Adrian Cohen, a concussion researcher at Headsafe, told 2GB radio the routine activity on a pitch can have dire consequences. 

‘Think about each header as transferring energy to your brain; you have a total lifetime dose of energy that equates with how many times you head the ball,’ Cohen said.

‘Heading the ball hurts. Kids don’t like doing it. Why are we putting them through it?’ 

Cohen added it was critical to reduce the risk heading soccer balls poses for young kids, whose brains are not yet fully developed.

Dr Cohen pointed to the dangers of the activity given children's brains are not fully developed

Dr Cohen pointed to the dangers of the activity given children’s brains are not fully developed 

A study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine in 2019 found professional soccer players were up to five times more likely to be prescribed dementia medication than non-soccer-playing men of a similar age.

The study also revealed the footballers were almost three-and-a-half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases.

Banning junior kids from heading balls in training or games has been enforced in the US since 2015 – and in recent years junior Scottish clubs were asked to do the same in the lead up to matches.

Football Australia said the code have long standing concussion protocols in place at all levels stemming from heading soccer balls and also continue to monitor global research on the issue.

‘Football Australia takes this very seriously and player welfare continues to be of paramount importance,’ they said in a statement.

Eric Nauman, a professor of mechanical engineering and basic medical sciences in the US, recommended inflating soccer balls to lower pressures and replacing them when they get wet.

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‘If the ball has too much pressure, gets waterlogged, or both, it actually turns into a weapon,’ he told Science Daily.

‘Heading the ball is like heading a brick.’

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