‘Spent nights in hospital’ – Former Spur reveals extent of injuries during his career

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Bournemouth right-back Adam Smith and ex-Tottenham captain Micheal Dawson have both praised the new heading guidance suggested to professional footballers (talkSPORT).

Dawson also revealed the long-term injuries he sustained from constantly heading the ball in training and matches.

The new guidelines regarding training sessions have now been announced by the FA, suggesting clubs should limit ‘high force’ headers to only 10 per training week.

Guidance on coaching to help develop heading techniques that result in lower force to the head are set to be sent to clubs around the country.

Smith, 30, claimed it wouldn’t affect day-to-day training at his Championship club Bournemouth too much, as most sessions are based around keeping the ball on the ground rather than anything too physical like heading.

The right-back stated that he agrees with the decision and revealed Bournemouth do indeed have protocols where youngsters in the academy are not allowed to head the ball until they are old enough.

He said: “I don’t think it’ll change too much, to be honest. We’re very much a passing team and we don’t really head that much in training.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea, it’s something that’s been going on for a while and my friend Ryan had that accident with his head and I’ve had a few concussions as well.

Smith firmly stated that he didn’t think the protocols before were brilliant but insists this news means the issue is going in the ‘right direction’.

He added: “I don’t think protocols have been brilliant but in the past year or so I think it’s going in the right direction and this is another positive.

“It’s probably a bit late for me now but for the younger lads it’s a great idea, they do need to look into it more and it’s a good idea to restrict it and not do too much heading.

“In the games, especially in the Championship, all you do is go up for headers and if you’re doing that in training I don’t see how that’s going to help after you retire.

“In the games, I don’t think it’ll ever stop because that’s football but in training, it could go that way.

“The academy here, to a certain age they’re not allowed to head balls, that’s been going on for a few seasons and I think that’s a great idea from the club.

“I’ve got a son and if he ever wanted to get into football I wouldn’t want him to head the ball when he was that young so it’s a great idea from the club and more needs to be looked into it for sure.”

Ex-Tottenham legend Dawson agreed with Smith in praising the new protocols but explained his own trauma regarding head injuries.

Dawson said: “You need to practice, you do need to practice, but consistently heading the ball for 20 minutes is not good.

“That was a massive part of my game. It probably helped give me the career I have now because I was good at it… but constantly heading the ball for 20 minutes is going to have an effect.

“I got knocked out, I spent nights in hospital from playing, you’d never change that… but I just think the younger generation, when I was 18/19, you doing heading bang, bang, bang, bang…

“When I was younger I never, ever gave it a thought. Then Dawn Astle came on the show and told us what her dad  [Jeff Astle] has been through.

“I’ve got two beautiful kids of my own and an amazing wife and it’s only been in the latter stages of my career where I’ve actually thought about it.

“The ball gets whipped in, you head it once, no problem. But you do that for 10-15 minutes and by the end you’ve got a splitting headache, your neck’s hurting, and I look back and think I used to do that all the time.

“I didn’t enjoy practising heading. Come Saturday, when you maybe head the ball 10-15 times a game it doesn’t hurt, it’s the consistency of doing it.”

SpursWeb Opinion 

This is great. Head trauma is a problem that many are not seeing the full effects of it – seeing legends like Dawson speak on it is only a good thing.

Seeing whether the new rules change anything is yet to be seen but more attention is needed on the subject.

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