Manchester United’s defender, Raphaël Varane worries over how Football has damaged his head

Manchester United’s defender, Raphaël Varane, has issued a cautionary note to his fellow footballers regarding the potential hazards of frequent heading, citing the risk of enduring permanent damage to one’s body.

The 30-year-old French athlete has raised his concerns about the long-term repercussions after grappling with multiple concussions throughout his career on the field.

Varane, who recently retired from international football after a decade-long stint, revealed that he had participated in numerous matches for both his club and country while grappling with the aftermath of head injuries.

In an interview with the French outlet L’ÉQUIPE, Varane emphasized that he advises his own son, also a budding footballer, against heading the ball. “My seven-year-old son plays football, and I counsel him against heading the ball. That’s crucial to me,” he stressed. “Even if the effects aren’t immediately apparent, we are well aware that repeated impacts can have detrimental consequences in the long run. While I may not live to be 100, I am certain that I have inflicted damage upon my body. The perils associated with headers should be highlighted on all amateur football pitches and to young players.”

Recalling instances of suffering concussions, including prior to France’s 1-0 defeat by Germany in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup and during a match for his former club Real Madrid against Manchester City in the 2020 Champions League round of 16, Varane underscored the need for greater awareness and precautionary measures.

“The concept of micro-concussions came to my attention only recently, during this season when specialists addressed us on the matter… Often, as athletes, we fail to grasp the significance and neglect to undergo testing,” he elaborated.

Varane further shared a personal incident from this season, where excessive heading during a Manchester United match resulted in abnormal fatigue and eye strain in the subsequent days. Promptly alerting the club’s medical team, he was advised against further play and underwent evaluation, leading to his absence from the subsequent fixture.

Expressing a commitment to raising awareness about the risks associated with heading, Varane acknowledged the challenges of shifting perceptions within the realm of men’s football culture.

In light of a study commissioned by the Football Association indicating a correlation between repetitive heading and increased risk of cognitive impairment later in life, steps have been taken, including the trial removal of deliberate heading in matches at the under-12 level, with countries such as Scotland implementing restrictions on heading before and after matches.