Thursday, November 23, 2017

Heading for trouble?

As much as I love him (and as much as I feel he's unfairly maligned as a pundit), it's fair to say that my football club's record goalscorer isn't much of a presenter. Nevertheless, Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football And Me, his BBC documentary exploring whether there's a link between repeatedly heading footballs and dementia, was worth a watch.

Over the course of the programme, Shearer met sufferers and their relatives, as well as talking to scientists working in the field. While there were no firm conclusions as to the existence of a connection, it was made clear that heading a ball does cause brain changes and that, though these are temporary, there may be cumulative negative effects in the long term. Shearer endorsed the specialists' calls for further research (and for the funds to conduct it - after all, the beautiful game isn't exactly short of cash at the top level) but stopped short of suggesting that the way forward was to ban heading from the youth game.

There was cause for cautious optimism that, 15 years after the pathologist who examined Jeff Astle's brain concluded that football-related dementia had killed him, the issue is finally being taken seriously - and hopefully the documentary will have helped to play a part in further raising awareness, encouraging action and reminding the authorities of their duty of care.

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