If the correct heading technique is taught, then I can’t see how it can cause a concussion, writes former Bafana Bafana captain NEIL TOVEY.
When it comes to life and football we are always told to use our heads but, in terms of the latter, some experts say it might not be a good idea. Heading is a fundamental skill practised from a young age, but research suggests that it could be contributing to concussions, blighting the beautiful game.
Throughout my professional playing career, I got concussed a few times but it was from clashing heads during aerial challenges rather than heading the ball.
I remember I was playing for Kaizer Chiefs at the time and after suffering a concussion, I had headaches and was vomiting for a couple of days afterwards.
In those days, we didn’t have the head injury protocols in place and often when we played a smaller team we would have to share our medical personnel with them. I recall being too stubborn to leave the field after sustaining the concussion. I was hazy-eyed and experienced double vision but today the referee immediately stops the game when a player suffers a head knock.
While children’s skulls are softer than adults, technology has advanced in terms of footballs. During my playing days, they were leather-based and as heavy as a lead balloon. Today the balls are as light as a feather and made from polyurethane.
If the correct heading technique is taught – keeping your eyes open and connecting the ball with the forehead not the top of the head – then I can’t see how it can cause a concussion. Having coached at grassroots level, the Japan Football Association have adopted the right approach by introducing guidelines for how heading should be taught to players under the age of 16.
Rather than enforcing an outright ban on heading, which the game revolves around and is an art form, we need to continue to teach the correct technique to young players. I was involved with soccer from the age of five, having joined Virginia United and was taught the basics of the game.
The long-term effects of concussion, which can lead to conditions such as early-onset dementia, are worrying but the medical side of football has grown so much. Even more safety measures can be put in place, but I think we are on the right track when it comes to managing head injuries in the game.