England’s record scorer Wayne Rooney says children should be banned from heading the ball, following the example of the United States, to reduce their chances of contracting dementia later in life.
Gary Lineker, former star of Barcelona and England, and Geoff Hurst, winner of the 1966 World Cup, are among the prominent names who have called for new regulations to prevent children from heading balls.
A study conducted in Scotland found that professional footballers are around three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.
Rooney told the Daily Telegraph that he first witnessed the United States rules with his son Kai when he was playing for the MLS DC United franchise.
“When we lived in the United States, my oldest son was on a soccer team and heading was forbidden in practice and games,” said Rooney, who now plays in the championship team Derby.
“If the ball went to their heads, they would walk away and let it run, so maybe that’s something that could happen on a more regular basis here.
“Clearly something needs to change to make sure this doesn’t happen to the next generation of players when young men are dying of this disease.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has also said that minimizing heading could become part of training sessions.
“I think it is viable,” he said.
“We have to start with youth soccer and at the youth end of the spectrum, kids are developing and their bodies are developing.
“We can really control training levels and I’m not technically sure how important it is to overload training at that age.
“If we now know that it has a health aspect, then we can control it.”
Rooney’s former United teammate, Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, was a renowned header.
Bruce has welcomed the announcement by the Association of Professional Footballers that they are creating a task force to investigate the matter.
“In my career, and every day when I was young we would head a ball in the gym and run out and repeat it hour after hour,” Bruce said Friday.
“There is a genuine concern, when you see players before my era, then why wouldn’t it affect my era?”
The family of another 1966 World Cup winner, Nobby Stiles, who died last month at age 78 after living with dementia in his later years, is furious that former players battling the disease are not receiving financial support from the PFA.
“How can it be right that some of the 1966 heroes had to sell their medals (like Stiles) to support families?” they said this week.