Experts: Brain trauma from heading a real risk, call for detailed study
Suffering brain trauma from heading of footballs is a real risk and cannot be ignored
Football is considered a sport where players face a higher risk of suffering concussion, alongside other contact sports such as rugby and American football.
This is why it is worth carrying out a large-scale study into the negative effects of repeated heading of footballs, says Dr Ben Tan, Chief of Sports Medicine at Changi General Hospital.
Dr Tan added that the risk of brain trauma from heading, or footballs striking the head, can prove to be more dangerous than some may think.
"The force of the ball hitting the head varies, but we cannot discount the fact that the ball hitting your head at a high velocity is likely to cause a high impact injury," Dr Tan.
"A half-hour heading drill, over months or years, can add up and have an effect."
World football governing body Fifa, however, played down fears of the effects.
Its spokesman told TNP that its Medical Assessment and Research Center has been following the issue of head and brain injuries for over 15 years and found no true evidence of the negative effect of heading.
He added that uncited recent international studies presented that concussion from ball contact occurred once every 200,000 playing hours.
But Dr Tan, who is the president of the Singapore Sailing Federation and a former Nominated Member of Parliament, said: "The effects of (solely) heading are difficult to prove because a football player also has contact with other players, so the study would be confounded by other kinds of contact.
"The number of hours Fifa cited sounds like it was (gleaned from) a cross sectional study.
"What might be of more value is to do prospective studies, which is to monitor a group or large numbers of players over, say, two years."
Dr Tan said while it is harder to do and more costly,it should be done if we are talking about the effects of moderate, repeated, impact.
Another medical expert, Dr Ivan Ng, a neurosurgeon in private practice in Mount Elizabeth Novena Medical Centre with 20 years' experience, agreed.
He said: "Absolutely (a study should be done)."
He added that the effects on children, in particular, should be looked into as their brains are immature and are at risk of injury, especially considering how popular the sport is globally.
Former national striker, Aleksandar Duric, recalled how he spent the night in hospital when he was 12 after being struck in the face with a powerful shot from an opponent from close range.
The 46-year-old heads the ActiveSG football academy that coaches kids between the ages of six and 16 at seven centres islandwide,
"I was knocked out, and I was so scared when I was in the hospital," Duric told TNP.
"But it was one of those things that can happen in football, and after that, I was all right."
He said at the ActiveSG academy, it is not a rule but young kids are not really taught to head the ball because at that age, they are taught basic feet movements with the ball.
"If I feel I have to check my brain every time the ball hits my head, I should have a hospital behind my house."