EPL bosses open to limiting heading

Crystal Palace's Joel Ward heads the ball during a Premier League match against Chelsea.
Crystal Palace's Joel Ward heads the ball during a Premier League match against Chelsea.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Players should stop heading the ball in training if research proves it leads to dementia when they are older, said several Premier League managers since the topic came to the fore following the death of England's Nobby Stiles at age 78 last month.

Stiles and many of his 1966 World Cup-winning teammates had been diagnosed with dementia before their deaths while the family of Manchester United great Bobby Charlton, 83, also disclosed his diagnosis recently.

Stiles' family hoped it would be a catalyst for addressing the disease while Geoff Hurst, England's hat-trick hero from the 1966 final, said heading the ball often in practice was dangerous and kids should not be doing it at all.

West Bromwich Albion manager Slaven Bilic told reporters: "If they find out through the research that heading the ball 10 times during training is going to cause you dementia, then let's stop it.

"For me, the great thing is they are talking about it and recognising it."

Chelsea's Frank Lampard said he is now considering how his players train and favoured rules to curb heading in youth football before implementing guidelines higher up the pyramid.

"The rules need to be stronger to make sure we're not making younger children head it if they don't need to," he said. "Anything we can do to make things safer, we should."

Aston Villa's Dean Smith, whose father was diagnosed with dementia before he died of Covid-19 this year, echoed Bilic's views about needing more research.

"I think if there is a correlation between heading a football and dementia, then we need to do something," he said.

"The balls were heavier back then. We are all saddened about the former players who are suffering with dementia."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2020, with the headline 'EPL bosses open to limiting heading'. Print Edition | Subscribe