Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has joined some Premier League clubs managers in calling for tougher rules on heading at youth football level in a bid to fight dementia.
The managers said any potential guidelines for professional clubs would need to be adopted ‘across the board’ to make it fair. There has been a rising case of dementia among ex-footballers as it has long-term effects.
This has made the former Chelsea midfielder think of changing Chelsea’s training due to concerns over heading and potential links to dementia.
Part of those affected by dementia includes Nobby Stiles, who recently passed away. He followed Jack Charlton, Martin Peters, and Ray Wilson as England 1966 World Cup heroes that have died after suffering from the same illness. Recently, Jack Charlton’s brother Sir Bobby Charlton has also recently been diagnosed with dementia.
This has made another England World Cup winner, Sir Geoff Hurst, to speak on how children should be banned from heading the ball while playing football.
Does youth football need a tough rule against dementia? Premier League managers speak
With the rising case of dementia in the game, there could a stringent rule that could make youth footballers be penalised for nodding the ball unneccesarily.
This is judging from the way it is becoming a subject of discussion. In favour of tougher rules in youth football, Lampard believes a similar approach could be adopted at the professional level, as long as it was universally agreed and adhered to.
Speaking on Thursday at his news conference ahead of Chelsea’s visit to Newcastle this weekend, the Chelsea boss called for a tougher rule.
“The rules need to be stronger to make sure we’re not making younger children head it if they don’t need to. In the development game, that’s more than possible.
“We have to start with youth football. When children are developing, we can control the levels of training. Anything we can do to make things safer, we should.
“I think we can work up the pyramid. Already, I’m certainly considering it in terms of how we train here because of the seriousness of the issue.
“At the professional level, the small gains are huge and we need to make sure we’re working under the same guidelines and trust each other that we are.
“At the moment, there are no guidelines. It has to be something that goes across the board.”
On his part, Aston Villa boss Dean Smith, whose dad, Ron Smith had dementia for six years before dying from COVID-19 said football must act if it is proven that heading a football can increase the chances of developing dementia.
Smith, who is a former Villa defender said he would support changes if further research shows a correlation.
“I think it’s a question for a wider debate until we have the full science data about heading the ball.
“I was a defender and my game was about heading a football. Yes it is a concern. If the data comes out and shows a correlation. We’d need to change something.
“I recently lost my father through covid but he also had dementia and he was not a footballer. Dementia and Alzheimer’s is more prevalent throughout the world now unfortunately but I think if there is a correlation between heading a football and dementia then we need to do something.
“There’s a lot of people putting in money and intelligence to find out if there is a correlation between heading and dementia. The balls were heavier back then. We are all saddened about the former players who are suffering with dementia at the moment.”
In support of Lampard’s view, Burnley manager Sean Dyche said changes are needed at the youth level, adding that it has long argued for the use of softer balls for younger players.
“From working in the youth system at Watford, my view has always been that from a young age they should be learning with sponge balls.
“It’s about technique. When you head the ball properly and appropriately you don’t get the same knock-on effect.
“From the medical side, they’ll know at what age it becomes appropriate to start using a real football.
“A lot is made of the game being different now, but if you look at the stats, you’ve still got to head the ball at some point from goal kicks or corners. Unless they’re going to take that away but I don’t think that would be a good spectacle.
“No one wants anyone having future problems and certainly not with the brain,” Dyche said.