PETER CROUCH: I scored more headers than anyone so I know I’m at risk – that’s why I’ll have a dementia scan every year
- I made promise to have scans for Chronic Traumatic Encepalopathy
- Having been used as an aerial threat throughout my career, I am at risk
- There were times where I would be seeing stars from heading so much
- But I would never advocate heading being banned at it would change the sport
My first appearance on these pages came six days after Alan Shearer’s documentary Dementia, Football and Me had aired on the BBC, in November 2017.
The programme struck a chord. So, in my first column, I made a promise that I would, at some point in the future, have a scan for CTE — Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy — to see if years of heading a football had left a permanent mark.
It’s time to give you an update. I am yet to go in for the test but that does not mean I am avoiding things. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. We have been discussing this subject a lot at home recently and Abbey has been persistent about the need for me to get one booked.
There were times when I headed the ball more than any other player in Europe’s top leagues
I don’t intend for it to be just a one-time thing, however. If I can be assessed every year or every other year, what harm can that do? If, heaven forbid, I am vulnerable to this illness, I would prefer to know early so that I could take measures to treat it.
I’m not naive enough to think that I am not at risk.
There was a point in my career, when I was playing week in, week out, that I was heading a ball more than anyone in Europe’s four main leagues by some considerable distance.
Heading was a huge weapon but it was not one that came naturally. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being Paul Gascoigne. I always had good skills and a nice touch.
But I was 6ft-plus when I was 15 and had it drummed into me that I had to improve my aerial ability because I could become a target man.
The demand as a target man demanded heading ability was worked on as a skill
And how I practised. Before school, I’d go out with my Dad to a pitch not far from our house and he would cross balls in for me.
Whenever I was at training, I would spend time trying to develop my technique.
There were times I can remember when I was literally seeing stars after sessions from using my head so much.
Most of you reading this will have headed a ball at some point in your life. If you do it from the wrong part of your head, you will know you get what seems to be a flash in your eyes — that’s your brain, quite literally, shaking.
When you are a kid, you don’t think of risks later in life and the prospect of dementia from a football wasn’t even discussed in the 1990s.
Removing heading from football is not something I would advocate as it would alter the game
If you wanted to box then, you were made aware of the dangers. There wasn’t anything like that with football.
Don’t get me wrong — I don’t regret any of it. I had an amazing career and I’m proud of the fact that nobody has scored more headed goals than me in the Premier League. I would never advocate heading to be banned, as that would alter the sport completely.
But, at the same time, we cannot shut ourselves off from the fact there is a huge issue. We need to look after the players who have been affected, support those who are vulnerable and safeguard the players of the future.
If Sportsmail’s campaign can trigger change, so much the better.