Football faces a major challenge in tackling brain injuries – including changing the mindset of players who are willing to stay on the field until they “can’t walk”.

This is the warning from John Mousinho of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) speaking at a time of growing concern about the potential long-term health risk to players.

A 2019 study in Scotland found that professional soccer players were three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases than members of the general population.

1966 English World Champion Bobby Charlton was recently the youngest high profile former player to be diagnosed with dementia.

Mousinho, who plays for Oxford United in the third division of English football, said at the Sports Resolutions virtual conference this week that the game is lagging behind rugby by giving players information about the risks of repeated headings and concussions .

However, he said awareness of the problem had grown – the PFA had partially funded the study in Scotland and supported other research projects.

Dawn Astle, the daughter of English striker Jeff Astle, who died in 2002 at the age of 59 of a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated header games, has advocated better understanding the link between football and dementia.

She was concerned about the lack of action by football authorities when she testified this week before a UK legislature committee investigating concussion in sports.

“Football has not acted or protected its players in nearly 20 years – men, women, children, all of whom are potentially at risk,” said Astle.

“I think football doesn’t want to believe it can be a killer,” she added. “I know it can be because it’s on the bottom of my father’s death certificate.”

Mousinho, who sits on the players’ union management committee, believes it is easier to change the stance of the organization than that of the players it represents.

“If you ever see a footballer suffer something that is either a concussion or a concussion, anyone who watches football knows how they react,” he said.

“They don’t want the physio to be on to start with, and when the physio lights up, they immediately wave them away. They don’t want full treatment or adequate assessment – they want to move on. “

Mousinho said refusing to accept injury is part of a player’s DNA.

“Unfortunately, that’s in the nature of professional footballers,” he said. “You are hot-wired from a young age to ignore not just brain injuries but all kinds of injuries.

“It’s my fault throughout my career. Obviously, anyone who exercises at a decent level knows that you basically keep playing until you can no longer run.

“That’s really the case with brain injuries and I think we downplay it as footballers too much.”

Rugby allows temporary replacements as part of its head injury assessment protocols that review the quiet environment of a medical room.

In contrast, the Premier League is testing permanent concussion replacement products that can take place after an on-site clinical assessment.

The PFA would like to have temporary substitutes in football.

“Permanent concussion replacement products only solve 10% of the problem,” Mousinho said.

“There will still be cases where players drop out and may not show the effects of a possible concussion until 12 or 15 minutes later.

“Two to three minutes (consultation) on the field or on the edge of the field are not enough. As part of the progress of football, we need it to really accept these things and bring about change. “

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