FORMER Luton Town and Wimbledon footballer Mick Hartford “fears” developing dementia from heading the ball so many times during his 20-year career.
Harford, who is assistant manager with the Hatters and was twice capped by England, was renowned for his heading ability, which he also displayed at Derby, Chelsea, Sunderland and Coventry during his career.
The 61-year-old, who scored 186 goals in 582 games, said he practised heading “a hell of a lot”, but that it is a risk that he would “probably” take again.
“Every Saturday I was concussed – that’s not a joke,” he said.
He told BBC Look East: “You’d get bangs on the head and it wasn’t just heading the ball – it was elbows, clashes of heads and getting a knee or boot to the head as you fell to the ground.
“You just got up and got on with it in the following game and never really gave any thought to the actual consequences.”
In a recent Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) meeting, several issues regarding the practice of heading in training were discussed as they look to “give current players protection” against future, and potential, dementia.
Following the meeting, the PFA set up a new taskforce to further examine the issue of brain injury diseases in football.
“When you look at the percentages of old footballers who are getting dementia, I’m sure there’s some kind of correlation to that,” Harford said.
“[But] I wouldn’t swap what I did, how I trained, or how I headed the ball because I’ve got to be honest – I thoroughly enjoyed the art of heading the ball.”
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