Rachel Brown-Finnis on her light-bulb moment over heading danger

My light-bulb moment over heading danger: Former Liverpool, Everton and England goalkeeper RACHEL BROWN-FINNIS reveals how playing in America helped raise awareness on the high risk of heading a football

  • I have a neurological condition — epilepsy — which started when I was 17
  • The cause of my epilepsy is unknown and it hasn’t caused significant problems
  • I lived in America for five years and there was a lot of awareness on concussions
  • That was 20 years ago and a lot of players wore padded headbands as a result
  • It put a light bulb on: maybe we should be protecting our heads in football 

I am very conscious that I have a neurological condition — epilepsy — which started when I was 17. 

I had smashed my head into the post on a couple of occasions and it’s happened since. The cause of my epilepsy is unknown and it hasn’t caused any significant problems. But we’re talking about the long-term effects.

I wasn’t always a goalkeeper. I did plenty of heading as a youth player. Knowing there is something already going on in my brain, is football going to have a life-changing impact down the line? That’s pretty concerning.

Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis speaks out on the risks of heading the ball

Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis speaks out on the risks of heading the ball

I lived in America for five years, playing in the college system. There was quite a lot of awareness about head injuries in American football.

That was 20 years ago and already some people drew parallels — a lot of players wore padded headbands. 

That was the first awareness I had that there could be science behind concussions, brain damage and football. 

It put a light bulb on: maybe we should be protecting our heads.

I’ve not really seen anyone wear those sort of things over here.

A footballer’s worst worry was a career-ending cruciate ligament injury in my generation. Long-term health of our brains is not something that even came into consideration.

Brown-Finnis played for both Liverpool and Everton (pictured in 2014) before retiring in 2015

Brown-Finnis played for both Liverpool and Everton (pictured in 2014) before retiring in 2015

ALYSSA MIRANDA, MILLWALL LIONESSES 

How concerning is it that female players are thought to be more at risk of dementia than male players? 

It’s very concerning and I don’t think many females players know about this issue. Especially now that women’s football is growing and that there are more opportunities for young girls to develop through academies and clubs, it’s important they are educated.

How concerning is it that female players are thought to be more at risk of dementia than male players? 

I try my best not to worry so much about heading because it’s part of the game. However, if the ball is dropping from a great height, I will avoid heading it if possible. I have had three concussions in the past and one of them resulted in me blacking out on the pitch and I had to go to hospital. One of my teammates at Millwall had a nasty head injury in one of our games this season – it was a 50/50, she went to head the ball and the other player hit her in the nose with her shoulder. You could hear her nose crack.

Is it talked about among players and teams? 

No and I don’t think it’s talked about enough. It’s important that female players are knowledgeable about any risks that could result from playing this sport. From a health perspective, women in football tend to be overlooked and I believe that more studies need to be conducted to have a deeper understanding of why this condition affects female players and what would be the best way to reduce the risks.

I believe limiting heading in training is necessary and should be implemented, specifically for younger girls. I don’t think it’s necessary for them to be heading the ball in training – especially if this could help prevent dementia. 

source: dailymail.co.uk

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