Former Tottenham midfielder Ryan Mason – who had to end his career due to a fractured skull – insists heading in football may not EXIST ‘in 10-15 years’ as calls to ban it in training and for kids grows amid research into its links to dementia
- Former midfielder Ryan Mason was forced to retire from football a few years ago
- Mason was forced to call it a day after fracturing his skull while playing for Hull
- Mason says he wouldn’t be surprised if heading was banned in 10 or 15 years
- Recent study reported footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of a neurodegenerative disease than the general population
- MPs want to quiz football chiefs over handling of dementia scandal in the sport
Ryan Mason insists he would not be surprised if heading no longer exists within football in about 10 or 15 years time.
Mason, who played for both Tottenham and Hull as a midfielder, was forced to retire from football after fracturing his skull back in 2017 after a sickening clash of heads with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill at Stamford Bridge.
Dr Willie Stewart’s FIELD study recently showed that footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of a neurodegenerative disease than the general population.
Ryan Mason believes heading within football may not exist in about 10 or 15 years time
And 29-year-old Mason believes heading may soon not be part of the game amid the ‘shocking’ and ‘concerning’ research.
‘It wouldn’t surprise me in 10 to 15 years if heading wasn’t involved in the game,’ Mason told BBC Sport.
‘The research and the momentum it’s getting, I think it’s probably going to open up a lot more stuff that becomes quite shocking.
‘I’m not sure footballers are fully aware of the potential damage. This is where the more research, the more understanding, the more education current players get, the better.
‘It might even get to a point where you might need to sign something to say that I’m OK [playing with the risk].
‘It really is concerning. The problem we have is you don’t know the effects until you get later on in life.’
Mason’s comments come amid calls for heading to be banned within training and at kids level.
In November, the PFA called for heading in training to be reduced and monitored after Sportsmail launched its seven-point campaign to immediately tackle the game’s dementia scandal.
One of our demands was for clubs to limit heading at all levels, with a maximum of 20 headers per training session and a minimum of 48 hours between sessions.
Gary Lineker has been vocal in his support of abandoning heading in training at all levels – outlining that he only ever used to head the ball during matches after repeated aerial challenges as a teenager ‘worried’ him.
Mason was forced to retire from football after fracturing his skull in 2017 while playing for Hull
‘There’s absolutely no reason to head the ball in training,’ Lineker said during an interview with the Telegraph.
‘I headed it a lot in my teenage years, which worries me, but very rarely after that as it seemed unwise. Only ever in games. All players should back this.’
In February this year, children under the age of 12 were banned from heading footballs during training.
Players will be allowed to use their heads during matches, but headers will be banned in practice or training sessions.
The new guidelines have applied to children in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the family of the late Nobby Stiles have been told the England World Cup winner’s dementia was caused by heading footballs.
In a brave move aimed at assisting research and finding answers, the 1966 legend’s wife Kay and three sons donated his brain to Dr Stewart’s FIELD study, which is examining links between the disease and the sport.
They have long believed that Stiles’s dementia was due to head trauma inflicted during a glittering career which also saw him lift the European Cup with Manchester United. And in an emotional Zoom call with Dr Stewart, their fears were confirmed.
The consultant neuropathologist told the family he had completed his analysis, that the damage to Nobby’s brain was ‘very severe’ and that it ‘could only have been caused by heading the ball over a sustained period’.
There has been a major concern regarding the impact of heading amid links with dementia.
A group of former footballers, managers and politicians have taken Sportsmail’s dementia campaign to Parliament.
In letters sent to the Prime Minister and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, former England stars Peter Reid and Viv Anderson, as well as ex-Labour leader Lord Kinnock, are among the signatories calling for an urgent review into the possible link between heading a ball and neurodegenerative diseases.
Calls for the DCMS select committee to investigate whether dementia sufferers are getting adequate support could also see the game’s bosses dragged before MPs and told to explain themselves.
The letters, organised by the FIFA Ethics and Regulations Watch, demand that the Government support Sportsmail’s seven-point plan, declare not enough is being done and call on Parliament to act on the ‘growing body of evidence that repeatedly heading the ball increases the chances of dementia’.
Former footballers and MP’s have taken Sportsmail’s dementia campaign to the Government
The letters, sent by players to Secretary of State Oliver Dowden and by politicians to DCMS select committee chair Julian Knight, reference the findings of Dr Stewart’s study.
They add: ‘The newspaper (Daily Mail) also published a seven-point charter, calling for more research, recognition of dementia as an industrial disease and better support for former players who have been diagnosed with dementia.
‘Given football continues to be the UK’s most popular team sport, we think this an important public safety campaign that is worthy of support.’
And the MP who brought down FA chairman Greg Clarke says there is a strong case for launching a parliamentary inquiry into the dementia crisis in football and other sports.
Knight is expected to respond to the letter after the parliamentary recess and will consult with the other 10 members of the committee over whether to launch an inquiry in the new year.
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