Raphael Varane Man Utd Defender and French national team player says heading has damaged his body

Raphael Varane says he has “damaged his body” due to the continuous impact of heading the ball.

Defender Varane, currently playing for Manchester United, says he once completed a 2014 World Cup game with France in a state of “autopilot” after playing with a concussion.

He calls for greater protection and better awareness of the issue.

“My seven-year-old son plays football and I advise him not to head the ball. For me, that’s essential,” Varane told L’Equipe.

“Even if it doesn’t cause any immediate trauma, we know that in the long term, repeated impacts can have harmful effects.

“Personally, I don’t know if I’ll live to be 100, but I do know that I’ve damaged my body. The dangers of heading need to be taught on all amateur football pitches and to young people.”

Varane cites France’s 1-0 defeat to Germany in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup and a Champions League round of 16 match with his former club Real Madrid against Manchester City in 2020 as examples of when he played despite suffering a concussion.

The center-back says he put himself at risk by playing against Germany in 2014, after being hit on the head in a round of 16 match against Nigeria a few days earlier.

“I finished the [Nigeria] match but I was in ‘autopilot’ mode,” he said. “The staff wondered if I was fit [to play against Germany]. I was weakened, but ultimately I played and rather well.

“What we’ll never know is what would have happened if I had taken another blow to the head.

“As footballers accustomed to playing at the highest level, we are accustomed to pain, we are a bit like soldiers, tough guys, symbols of physical strength, but these [concussions] are symptoms which are quite invisible.”z z z z z

New guidelines issued in July 2021 stated that professional footballers in England should be limited to 10 ‘higher force headers’ per week in training from the 2021-22 season, and permanent concussion substitutes were introduced in the Premier League in 2021.

Last month, a group of 17 former players and families began legal action against several of the game’s governing bodies, claiming negligence and breach of duty of care towards former players.z z z z z z z z z z z z z z

The group alleges that minutes from a Football Association meeting in 1983 “indicate [the FA] was always fully aware of the dangers” of concussion in football and “failed to take action to reduce the risk to players to the lowest reasonable level.”