The role of heading in football should be “seriously considered” amid concerns of a link to an increased risk of dementia, according to the outgoing Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor.
Taylor will step down from his role at the end of the season after 40 years in charge after criticism of his perceived failure to act to tackle the issue of dementia in the game.
Last week a group of former international rugby players announced they were taking legal action against the English and Welsh governing bodies over the brain injuries they have suffered.
Former England striker Gary Lineker is among those who have called for a complete ban on heading in training at all levels of the game.
“We’ve got areas of research. We are looking at the number of players who are getting dementia and trying to establish a causal link,” Taylor told Sky Sports.
“That’s why it’s so important that we look at the treatment of concussion and the number of times in training players are heading the ball and to seriously consider the role of heading in the game.
“I don’t know any footballer who regrets his career, but we also have a duty of care and I think it is incumbent on the authorities that we don’t put off any youngster coming into the game because of worries about the future.”
England World Cup winners Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton have both died from dementia earlier this year, while Bobby Charlton has also been diagnosed with the disease.
The FIELD study published last year found footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than age-matched members of the general population.
In 2002, an inquest recorded a verdict of death by industrial disease in the case of former England striker Jeff Astle caused by repeated heading of the ball.
Dr Willie Stewart, who led the FIELD study, carried out a new examination on Astle’s brain in 2014 which concluded that the 59-year-old had died from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).