Free chapter for The Concussion Crisis in Sport

Should heading in soccer be banned?

No - not because this would fundamentally change the nature of the game, or because of the positive role of soccer in the global fight against inactivity and obesity, but for 4 good evidence-based reasons.
  1. While calls for a ban are linked to the ‘discovery’ of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the science is at a very early stage. There are just five cases of CTE involving English ex-professional footballers (compared to over 100 in the NFL) and none of these case are strict diagnoses, merely informed opinions.
  2. The causes of CTE are unknown, but thought to be different in these two contexts: concussions in the NFL vs ‘sub-concussive’ impacts in soccer. Where heading has been banned in soccer – in the US for under 11s – the aim was to reduce concussions and not because of fears about CTE.
  3. Even though a recent study has shown that ex-professional footballers are three times more likely to develop dementia than the general population, conflating this very specialised high-risk occupation with 265 million footballers around the world is a leap in logic. One study suggests that being a professional footballer is not only the most dangerous UK occupation, but is 500 times more dangerous than the next most dangerous occupation. 
  4. If heading were a major cause of dementia, why do males make up such a small proportion of all cases? Two-thirds of people with dementia are female, few of whom will have regularly headed a football. 

We should be cautious, and always take head injuries seriously, but policy should be based on evidence rather than extrapolation. 

Dominic Malcolm, Author of The Concussion Crisis in Sport





More about The Concussion Crisis in Sport:

Concussion has become one of the most significant issues in contemporary sport. The life-changing impact of head injury and the possible threat that chronic traumatic encephalopathy poses to children and young athletes in particular is calling into question the long-term future of some of our most well-established sports. But what are the real issues behind the headlines and the public outcry, and what can and should be done to save sport from itself? This concise, provocative introduction draws on perspectives from sociology, medicine, ethics, psychology, and public health to answer these questions and more.

The book explores the context in which the current cultural crisis has emerged. It assesses the current state of biomedical knowledge; the ethics of regulating for brain injury; the contribution of the social sciences to understanding the behaviour of sports participants; and the impact of public health interventions and campaigns. Drawing on the latest research evidence, the book explores the social roots of sport’s concussion crisis and assesses potential future solutions that might resolve this crisis.

This is essential reading for anybody with an interest in sport, from students and researchers to athletes, coaches, teachers, parents, policy-makers, and clinicians.

Featured Title

  • The Concussion Crisis in Sport

    1st Edition

    By Dominic Malcolm

    Concussion has become one of the most significant issues in contemporary sport. The life-changing impact of head injury and the possible threat that chronic traumatic encephalopathy poses to children and young athletes in particular is calling into question the long-term future of some of our most…

    Paperback – 2019-08-09
    Routledge