Raphael Varane highlights concussion concerns, calls for greater awareness on heading dangers

Raphael Varane

2nd April 2024 – (London) Manchester United defender Raphael Varane has opened up about the impact of concussions on his body and emphasized the need for increased awareness among players regarding the dangers associated with heading the ball.

The Frenchman revealed that he had experienced a concussion a few days before playing in France’s 1-0 defeat to Germany in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. He also suffered a concussion while playing for his former club Real Madrid in their loss to Manchester City during the 2020 Champions League last 16 second leg.

Following a successful 10-year international career with Les Bleus, which included winning the World Cup in 2018 and finishing as a runner-up four years later, the 30-year-old decided to retire from international football.

Varane spoke to French daily L’Equipe, expressing his concerns and sharing his advice to his seven-year-old son, cautioning him against heading the ball. He stressed the importance of recognizing the potential long-term effects of repeated head impacts, even if there are no immediate traumatic consequences.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I am aware that I have already caused damage to my body,” Varane stated. “It is crucial that the dangers of heading are taught at all levels of amateur football and to young players.”

Research commissioned by England’s Football Association (FA) has indicated a link between repetitive heading during a professional soccer career and a higher risk of cognitive impairment later in life.

The FA has implemented trials to restrict deliberate heading in matches at the Under-12 level, while Scotland has introduced a ban on heading on specific days surrounding matches. In March, the International Football Association Board announced plans to introduce permanent concussion substitutions, though the decision to implement this rule lies with individual competition organizers.

Varane emphasised the importance of medical staff prioritising players’ safety over their desire to continue playing, highlighting the need for athletes to understand that true strength lies in acknowledging and addressing serious injuries by taking necessary breaks from the game.