CAN HEADING A FOOTBALL CAUSE YOU HEAD INJURIES? – 5 Drills to head a football correctly

football-head injuryCan heading a football cause you head injuries? Are there any drills to head a football that might help with avoiding a head  injuries? Two important  questions that need looking into.

This is a subject that seems to be getting more and more news columns by the week.

Why is this so?  We all know that it is not good to continually take knocks to the head.  It’s time to ask the question can heading a football cause you head injuries?

Heading a football is a massive part of any football match and practice sessions.

With so many people involved in football it has started to be a concern that long term football head injuries may be a problem to football players.

What is being done about this?

Is heading a football still allowed?

Are there ways to head a ball correctly to stop this from happening?

Lets explore this subject and find out if heading injuries in football are real or not?

Knocks To The Brain

Heading is a common technique that is used by players in every match.  Heading is one way of controlling the ball.  Players can pass, shoot or clear the ball with their head.  Goals are scored with headers and Defenders use headers to clear the ball away often during games.  When the ball is in the air heading a ball becomes the only option as there is a law in football that says players can not use their hands. (except the goalkeeper)

Concerns have started to be raised over player safety from heading a football. This is due to the impact of the ball from its weight on the head and also the chance that players can collide with each other.

People who have multiple head head injuriies get something called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) also know as punch drunk syndrome.

CTE has symptons that may cause behavioural problems such as mood swings and problems with thinking.

These symptons do not begin for many years after the injuries.  It can get worse over time, possible resulting in dementia. complications with dementia can cause aggression, depression and possible suicidal bahaviour.

If this is the case what is being done about it?

Changing the rules in some sports has been discussed as a means of preventing this.

U.S. Soccer has already taken actions in eliminating heading for children 10 and under, and also limiting the amount of heading in practice between the ages of 11 and 13.

We may see more Football Associations around the world take similar prevention methods as more  research is done on this subject.

What about the use of protective head gear? (like they use in other sports i.e Rugby) Could these be introduced to reduce risk of head injuries?

As player safety becomes more prevelant for all Football Associations, more research is definitely needed on this subject.


Putting Your Head On It

Football is the only contact sport with the purpose of using  the head for controlling the ball. Many Coaches and books inform players to avoid heading a football under the age of 12, with some even saying wait until 14 years. Due to the Younger soccer players having weaker neck muscles, being a smaller size, and having a less skillfull heading technique, they may be at greater risk of injury.

Therefore proper heading technique may be  a footballers greatest defense against injury from heading a ball.

If a player sustains a head injury during a match, the decision on that injury is supposed to rest with the team doctor, and according to all guidelines, should not be taken by the player.

A player is more likley to get a severe head injury from a collision with another player (clash of heads) or from an elbow in the face. Referees have been told to clap down on players jumping with their arms up.  This is concidered dangerous play and could result in a red card.

Are women are more at risk than men?

There are about 30 million women and girls playing football throught the world today and recent studies show that they may be more vulnerable than men.  why is this?

Traumatic brain injuries , including concussions affect women differently. They take longer to recover from the traumatic brain injury, they report more concussions to men in similar sports. Could it be because that the hormones differ or the make up of the neck and upper bodies differ from men?

More studies are needed but it is clear from the studies so far the different sexes need to be looked at individually, they can no longer be treated the same.

5 Drills To Head A Ball Correctly

Always look at the ball:  The biggest problem most players have before they begin is they fear heading a ball. In their mind  they have the thoughts it’s going to hurt.  This needs changing straight away.  Think something like “if i go for it I am in control let me attack the ball now”. Looking at the ball means you will be in control of the header. You can send the ball in the direction that you want it to go in.

1.  Plant your feet: Make sure you have a solid base to head the ball from. If it’s not needed to jump at the ball then make sure you are balanced and ready to head the ball.

2.  Bend your knees:  As the ball is coming in your direction bend at the knees. This will give you a bit of momentum when you start to move up and foward towards the ball.

3.  Lean back: Next movement is to lean back slightly.  This is a gentle movement backwards. Mantain your balance be in control at all times, you dont want to fall over backwards.

4.  Jump:  If needed:  on many occasions a jump will be required. To get yourself above the opposition player to win the ball.  push yourself off the ground as fast as you can. Heading the ball in the air is all about timing. Making sure you are in the air at the point when the ball reaches you.

5.  Quick forward movement of the head:  This will generate the power for you. The faster you move your head towards the  ball, the faster it moves away from you. Try to use the forehead when heading, it is the strongest part of the head.

Can you avoid this?

The thing is heading is a vital part of the game. It is used in both Defending and Attacking the ball.

The simple answer is no. If you want to learn how to play football, it is a skill you must learn. That is why learning the correct technique from the begining is so important.

Master this skill and change your mind to be in control of heading the ball.

As an outfield player you are not allowed to use your hands, so heading a ball is a part of the body you must use.

Can you add your name to the list and become the next best at heading like some of the greats?

Here are but a few to check out who were fantastic headers of a ball Alan Shearer, Robin Van Persie, Henrik Larsson, Luis Suarez, Christiano Ronaldo. (the list is long) Can you think of anyone who is a great?

The simple header

How can this simple thing like a header cause so much debate? clash-of-heads

Player safety is everything these days, so it should be talked about if football heading may cause a problem in later life.

Research has been done and is ongoing to find out if long term head injuries are caused by heading a football.  From what I can gather is the evidence from the research is inconclusive as it only happens many years later, thats why more research is needed.  It can’t be good to have a little bang on your head every time you head a ball.  Think about how many times a player heads a ball per match?.

You are more likely to get serious damage if you go up for a header and clash heads or get an elbow to the head from another player.

I do think it is right that they stop or even limit heading in younger players, sometimes prevention is good before serious damage can be done.

I for one dont want it banned from the game totally. Heading the ball is a fantastic skill. Think about when your teams player attacks a corner, gets up higher than their opponent and wins a header to score that winning goal for your team. I bet you will be loving that header, with no thought of it ever being removed from the game.

Any questions about this?

Please leave your comments below and get involved with this discussion.

Best wishes







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10 thoughts on “CAN HEADING A FOOTBALL CAUSE YOU HEAD INJURIES? – 5 Drills to head a football correctly

  1. I have had this same problem when I was learning to play football. At first, I would hesitate to head a ball. This would lead to me dodging the ball completely or taking a hard hit to head with no direction. I can vouch for the tips that you gave and jumping and keeping a stiff neck really does help. But as this relates to the young ones, they may not be ready unless they practice a lot. 

    Every sport has it’s own risks , but the most important thing is to mitigate those risks. Thanks for the tips!   

    1. Hi Wesley 

      Thank you for the fanstastic comments. Who knows the long term affects this may have on a person,more research is definitely needed.  

      I thought I would take a look at this subject and bring it back into peoples minds. 

      I am glad the tips were helpful. Let’s hope more football associations look at banning headers at the younger age group of players. 

      Good luck to you

      Best wishes


  2. Hi Matthew. I must admit I had a little giggle to myself when I read the title of your article. I don’t really know to much about  the game you call football, I was brought up in Australia and here we call it soccer. I played Aussie rules football when I was younger and there was only one time I tried out for soccer. It was because my dad grew up in Europe , where Football is the main sport played, so I wanted to please him because he loved the game. In my trial game I decided to do a header. after all how hard could it be. Well, when I hit the ball with my head it dropped me to the ground. Needless to say I was very lucky because I only ended up with a sore head, it could have been a lot worse. Which brings me back to your blog. My family seems to have completed the full circle when it comes to sport. My granddaughter plays soccer and was recently picked to represent he state. So I thought I’d check out a little about just how you play this game. She wants me to attend her matches and I wouldn’t like to go and see her without knowing a little bit more about this sport. Thank you for your enlightening article. I only wish I could have read it many years back.. Jim

    1. Hi Jim. 

      I am so glad you read this article and found some useful information in it. I  was born and grew up in South Africa

  3. I have never really heard of any brain damage from heading the ball in football (Soccer). I’d imagine the ball doesn’t have as much force or weight on it such as a basketball per se. I’ve headed a ball in casual games and have never dealt anything.

    Would bumping the ball of the chest be something to teach younger children before heading the ball at an older age?

    1. Hi Jessie. Thank you for your comments. Heading a ball once will be fine for you. It’s the multiple times that a person continually heads a football during practice and at matches that may cause a problem later in life.  That is why more research is being done about this.  The weight and pace that the ball as it comes at you is like a blow to the head.  Do this 20 or maybe 30 times a game.  Then think how many games are played in a season, plus countless hours at practice sessions, blow after blow. Like a boxer taking continual blows, it all adds up.  Hope this makes it a bit clearer for you.  Yes I agree children should be using their feet more at practices and not their head.  They will improve their technical skills by doing this.

      Take care my friend thank you again for taking the time to comment on this topic.

      Best Wishes


  4. This was revealing as I never knew you could get head injuries by heading a football. I mean, we all played soccer at school and nobody got hurt by that. But I suppose at higher levels of competition the ball can come at you much faster and the impact to the head can be harder.

    Thanks for letting people know about this and the importance of proper training!

    1. Hi Jurgen

      Thank your for taking the time to respond with your comments. The research being done is aimed at people that play football for a living. Heading it once or twice should be fine. It is the repeated header after header at practices and matches they are looking into.  There is no concrete proof that is does cause you any injuries. It’s the longer term damage that needs more looking at.  That is why much more research is needed in this area.  I do believe it is ongoing, a good thing in my eyes. I am pleased you took time to read this article. I am glad to see it  was helpful for you.

      Kind Regards


  5. Soccer is not my preferred sport but your informative blogs are really something, I’m even thinking of taking up the sport

    1. Thank you for the comment. I am glad you enjoyed this article. It’s nice to know you might try a new sport. Who knows you may even enjoy playing it.
      Best wishes

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