Gary Lineker Calls for Trial Removal of Heading From Football

Gary Linekar

Gary Lineker has called for a trial removal of heading in football in talkSPORT’s new documentary ‘Dementia and Football’, and is open to the idea of footballers not being allowed to head the ball in games.

Gary Lineker Backs Testing for Removal of Heading From the Game

Dementia Fears

Former England striker Gary Lineker has spoken about his fears about dementia as the evidence linking football and the illness continues to grow.

The British parliament recently launched an inquiry into the potential for heading in football to cause dementia, and Lineker feels that there is no doubt about the relationship between heading the ball and dementia. He said: “With seeing so many footballers who have now got dementia, the statistics are quite worrying.

“It’s too big a coincidence, it has to be associated with heading the ball. I’ve had conversations with Alan Shearer and Ian Wright and various others, the worry is that in ten or 15 years that it might happen to one of us, and in fact, the odds suggest that it probably will happen to one of us, so it is concerning.”

With these concerns, Lineker is open to the removal of heading from the sport. He added: “It’s hard to imagine the game without heading, but maybe it’s worth trailing to see what it looks like.

“Particularly if the evidence keeps rolling in and more and more players. It was the era of the 1966 players who have made us really aware of this. Football has changed since then, so we may see that it [dementia] is less prevalent in my era. But can we afford to wait that long? I suspect not.”

Training Limits May Be the Answer, Rather Than Removal of Heading Completely

Although Lineker feels removing heading could be trialled, he leans towards removing the art from training to ensure the illness does not affect footballers in the future.

“My personal feeling is either limit or get rid of it in training, but keep it in the game,” Lineker added. “Do you want to take heading out of the game? No, I don’t think so, but I think you can take heading out of training, or limit it massively.

“You talk about head tennis, that’s not going to do much as it’s just little flicks and touches, but exercises where defenders are heading it clear, crosses are sent in and players are heading the ball away and at goal repeatedly in training, I’ve watched centre-backs do it – bang, bang, bang – most of the damage will probably be done then.

“In a match how many times would you head it? Probably not that many. So I don’t think you can change the whole game, but you can definitely change the way we think about training.”

The 60-year-old can be an important voice in this change happening, having been known to head the ball regularly as a predatory striker. He spent much of his youth practising the art of heading.

“I know I did a lot of heading when I was young, so I’m worried whether that’s had any effect,” he continued. “I won’t know for a while, I’m seemingly fine at the moment, and hopefully what will remain the case.

“I don’t see how any footballer reading all this stuff at the moment wouldn’t have some kind of concern. If I had known what I know now, I would have certainly limited the amount of heading I did when I was younger – no question. Whether that would have made me not as good a footballer or whether I would have been not as good as heading the ball as I actually was, it’s impossible to say.”

As concerns grow from former players about the links with brain illness and heading the ball, debate around how to keep footballers safe is likely to grow with figures like Lineker at the forefront.


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