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MARTIN KEOWN: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about my own long-term health


MARTIN KEOWN: As a player who headed the ball a lot in a professional career of more than 20 years, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about my own long-term health

  • I would take it personally if an opponent had won more aerial battles than me
  • Towards the end of my career, I occasionally had double vision after heading
  • Football’s custodians have a responsibility to protect the safety of those playing

The idea that my love of football may have put everything else I love at risk is a cruel paradox and one that doesn’t bear thinking about.

Footballers in my generation were blissfully unaware of any potential consequences of heading the ball repetitively.

I would take it personally if I walked off the pitch knowing an opponent had won more aerial battles than me. In my mind, that meant I’d had a bad game.

I would take it personally if an opponent walked off the pitch having won more battles in the air

I would take it personally if an opponent walked off the pitch having won more battles in the air

As a player who headed the ball a lot in a professional career of more than 20 years, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about my own long-term health. 

Towards the end of my career, I occasionally had double vision and a feeling of dizziness immediately after heading a ball travelling at pace.

Now scientific studies are taking place, looking closely at whether heading increases the risk of developing dementia, and we have to act to protect current and future generations.

The key to this is screening current and former footballers, offering counselling to players, further research into the effects of repetitive heading and the development of protective headgear to be used in training.

I occasionally had double vision and a feeling of dizziness immediately after heading a ball

I occasionally had double vision and a feeling of dizziness immediately after heading a ball

In the early part of my career, conceding a goal from a cross or set-piece on a Saturday would be followed by a number of training sessions purely practising heading. 

Cross after cross would come in, and we would respond with header after header.

Thankfully, we did not do this at all under Arsene Wenger. I hope that sort of session does not happen too often for today’s players but the development of protective headgear may go some way to help reduce the risk.

Football’s custodians have a responsibility to protect the safety of those playing now

Football’s custodians have a responsibility to protect the safety of those playing now 

Dementia is growing in this country. As was written in this newspaper on the day Sportsmail’s campaign was launched, one person every three minutes develops dementia. 

Given the apparent link between dementia and football, the FA, PFA, the Premier League, all of the sport’s governing bodies and the Government must come together to protect the game’s participants.

Football’s custodians have a responsibility to protect the safety of those playing the beautiful game and they must act now — before it is too late for another generation of players.



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