Aston Villa manager Dean Smith admits concern over links with heading and dementia

Aston Villa manager and former defender Dean Smith, whose father suffered with the condition, says football must act if it is proven that heading increases your chances of suffering dementia later in life

Dean Smith 0:53
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith says football must act if it is proven that heading can increase chances of developing dementia

Aston Villa manager and former defender Dean Smith says he is concerned with the number of former footballers developing dementia.

Nobby Stiles passed away last month, following Jack Charlton, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson as England 1966 Word Cup heroes to have died after suffering from the same illness, while Jack Charlton's brother Sir Bobby Charlton has also recently been diagnosed with dementia.

Former Republic of Ireland footballers Tony Cascarino and Andy Townsend have both voiced their concerns about developing the condition as they get older.

Smith's father, Ron, had the condition for six years before passing away in May after contracting coronavirus.

"I think it's a question for a wider debate until we have the full science data about heading the ball," Smith said.

Tony Mowbray of Blackburn Rovers during the Sky Bet Championship match between Blackburn Rovers and Middlesbrough at Ewood Park on November 3, 2020 in Blackburn, England. 0:31
Blackburn manager Tony Mowbray says it was scary heading the heavier balls when he was a player

"I was a defender and my game was about heading a football. Yes it is a concern. If the data comes out and shows a correlation. We'd need to change something.

"I recently lost my father through covid but he also had dementia and he was not a footballer. Dementia and Alzheimer's is more prevalent throughout the world now unfortunately but I think if there is a correlation between heading a football and dementia then we need to do something.

"There's a lot of people putting in money and intelligence to find out if there is a correlation between heading and dementia. The balls were heavier back then. We are all saddened about the former players who are suffering with dementia at the moment."

Sir Geoff Hurst: Kids should be banned from heading footballs

Another England World Cup winner, Sir Geoff Hurst, has spoken about how he thinks children should be banned from heading the ball while playing football.

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England's 1966 World Cup final hero Geoff Hurst believes children should not be allowed to head the ball at a young age

Former England and West Brom striker Jeff Astle died in 2002 aged 59 because of repeated trauma from heading footballs, described by a coroner as an "industrial injury".

"At West Ham we had a ball hanging from the ceiling in the gym and we could spend half an hour to 45 minutes heading the ball," Sir Geoff told Sky News.

"We played head tennis and then you would go onto the pitch where you practice crosses which you head defensively or offensively. You could spend half an hour to 45 minutes there.

"In many of the games I played, I hardly headed the ball, so it's practice I think that is becoming a certain issue.

"The other area we have got to look at is 10-year-old, 11-year-old kids heading the ball when their brains are nowhere near as formed as adults.

"Stopping that wouldn't detract from the enjoyment of grassroots football for kids and parents watching their kids play football.

"That's another area I think, with their brains not being developed, we've got to look at kids of that age not heading the ball at all."

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