Scientists Make Connection Between Brain Trauma And Football

Leading US Research Centre Analyses Condition Of Footballer Who Died Aged 29


Scientists in the US believe they have identified a link between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and heading a football.

The team - comprised of experts from Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System - analysed the condition of a semi-professional soccer player who died aged 29.

Patrick Grange of Albuquerque was renowned for his heading ability and his parents Mike and Michele told the New York Times that he had suffered a number of concussions during his career.

Although leaders of the study could not confirm that heading the ball was a leading reason for his untimely death in 2012, they said this link between serious brain conditions and soccer is interesting nevertheless.

The team suggested that CTE and other brain injuries are more common among American football players, which is unsurprising given the amount of player contact associated with the sport, but this latest research indicates that soccer players could be at risk too.

Dr Ann McKee - who led the study - was quoted as saying that Mr Grange had "very extensive frontal lobe damage".

"We have seen other athletes in their 20s with this level of pathology, but they've usually been [American] football players," she added.

"We can't say for certain that heading the ball caused his condition in this case. But it is noteworthy that he was a frequent header of the ball, and he did develop this disease."

The findings will add more fuel to the debate over whether soccer players should receive better head protection.

There have been numerous high-profile examples of professional players receiving concussions this season - most notably Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who was allowed to play on in a match against Everton in November despite being knocked unconscious.

Some brain injury specialists have called for new regulations and training methods to be introduced at grassroots level, so that children - who are particularly vulnerable to head injuries as they develop - are not put in danger and are taught how to head a ball safely.

Expert Opinion
There have been a number of stories in the media across recent months related to concussion in sport and, as a result of incidents like that involving Hugo Lloris, it seems more in the public eye than ever before.

"Some major concerns have been raised regarding how such injuries are handled in sport and it is vital that research continues in this vein to provide more clarity and information regarding the potential links between head injuries and such activity.

"Compiling quality data will mean that informed decisions can be made on such apparent links, as well as help in efforts to identify how improvements in safety can be established."
Stephen Nye, Partner