Ex-Leeds United player John Stiles wants action over heading fears
Former Leeds United midfielder John Stiles is leading a surge in asking football clubs and the authorities to educate players on head injuries.
The 57-year-old saw first-hand the effects that dementia can have on someone as he witnessed his father Nobby, World Cup winner in 1966, suffer for years before he passed away in 2020.
Stiles, who played for Leeds between 1984 and 1989, has become a vocal campaigner for action and that has only been heightened after Junior Firpo suffered a blow during the Leeds United FA Cup game against West Ham.
“When you see what happened with Junior Firpo at the weekend and football’s refusal to allow temporary concussion substitutes I don’t think anybody cares about this risk,” he said, as quoted by the Yorkshire Post.
“The union won’t do it, the clubs won’t and the FA won’t do it but I will and I won’t stop. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror given the information I’ve got if I didn’t at least tell these lads of the risks.”
What can be done?
While we are all heavily aware of the health issues surrounding the persistent heading of a football, we’re not quite sure how to reduce the risks while keeping the beautiful game intact.
You can’t take heading out of the game completely given its importance to the modern game but can you reduce it?
Perhaps there needs to be a limit or even a ban on heading in training to stop defenders in particular from suffering from dementia later in life.
Maybe banning heading altogether is a stretch too far as technique still needs to be trained to prevent more immediate injury problems in games but a limit of maybe one session a week would make a huge difference.
Sadly for Stiles, there’s nothing anyone can do about his father now and there are many ex-professionals that could be struck with dementia next but maybe we can help prevent the current stars from suffering in the same way.