Sports

Man Utd and France defender Raphael Varane says heading has ‘damaged his body’


MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, April 2 – Raphael Varane says he has “damaged his body” because of the continued impact of heading the ball.

Defender Varane, now at Manchester United, says he once finished a France World Cup game in 2014 on “autopilot” after playing on with concussion.

He has called for greater protection and better awareness of the issue.

“My seven-year-old son plays football and I advise him not to head the ball. For me, that’s essential,” Varane told L’Equipe.

“Even if it doesn’t cause any immediate trauma, we know that in the long term, repeated shocks can have harmful effects.

“Personally, I don’t know if I’ll live to be 100, but I do know that I’ve damaged my body. The dangers of headers need to be taught on all amateur football pitches and to young people.”

Varane cites France’s 1-0 quarter-final defeat to Germany at the 2014 World Cup and a Champions League last-16 match with his former club Real Madrid against Manchester City in 2020 as examples of when he played despite being concussed.

The centre-back says he put himself at risk by playing against Germany in 2014, having been hit on the head in a last-16 match against Nigeria a few days before.

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“I finished the [Nigeria] match but I was in ‘autopilot’ mode,” he said. “The staff wondered if I was fit [to play Germany]. I was weakened, but ultimately I played and rather well.

“What we’ll never know is what would have happened if I had taken another knock to the head.

“As footballers used to playing at the highest level, we are accustomed to pain, we are a bit like soldiers, tough guys, symbols of physical strength, but these [concussions] are symptoms which are quite invisible.”

New guidelines issued in July 2021 said professional footballers in England should be limited to 10 ‘higher force headers’ per week in training from the 2021-22 season and permanent concussion substitutes were introduced in the Premier League in 2021.

Last month, a group of 17 former players and families began legal action against several of the game’s governing bodies, claiming negligence and a breach of duty of care towards ex-players.

The group alleges minutes of a Football Association meeting in 1983 “indicate [the FA] was always fully aware of the dangers” of concussion in football and “failed to take action to reduce the risk to players to the lowest reasonable level”.





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