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Something that the football world does not like to talk about

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Raul Jimenez has been sensational in the English Premier League since he signed for Wolverhampton. However, the Mexican striker recently got the spotlight for very different reasons, having being involved in a clash during a game against Arsenal, to the point that he had to be hospitalized. Fortunately, Jimenez is now in a stable condition and at home. But this is the last of a series of incidents and several studies commenced to demonstrate the relation between football and dementia.

Raul Jimenez was on the headlines recently because he was hospitalized after a serious clash he suffered during Wolverhampton’s game against Arsenal, which led to him being hospitalized. The impact between Jimenez’s head and David Luiz’s head was incredibly violent. Watching the replay in slow-motion the incident was quite worrying and there was a fear that the worst may happen when Raul Jimenez was taken to the hospital. While David Luiz managed to recover with few stitches, Jimenez lost consciousness on the pitch and was immediately brought to the hospital.

After a few days, there have been messages by his club that he is now in a much more stable condition and that he is resting at home, which is something that we can all be happy about. However, the incident occurred to Jimenez recalled previous similar episodes to many football enthusiasts: Peter Cech, Patrick Battiston (even if in this case Harald Schumacher was willing to injury him), and many others.

Speaking of head injury, last year, research by the Professional Footballers’ Association had found that footballers are five times more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s than those who do not play football, and Alzheimer’s is just a type of dementia. Five players of the England national team which won the World Cup in 1966 were reached by the diagnosis of brain damages, under the form of dementia, a disease that is still irreversible and incurable and four of them are already dead. Norbert (Nobby) Stiles died in October, Jack Charlton in July. Both had a form of dementia. In 2018 and 2019 respectively, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters, who were also ill with dementia, lost their lives. Last November, the diagnosis of dementia came for Sir Bobby Charlton, considered the best British player of all time.

The University of Glasgow, after a long research, came to the conclusion that Scottish footballers have 3 times and half higher chances of developing brain diseases (i.e. dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.) than the general public in line with other universities findings. If we step out of the United Kingdom, we realize that this is a worldwide issue: another football legend, Ferenc Puskas, died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2006. Not to mention, Gerd Müller, another extraordinary hero of German football, who needs to receive daily cares due to advanced stage Alzheimer’s. And those are two additional cases among thousands.

Geoff Hurst, the 78-year-old champion who scored three goals against Germany and who remains the only signatory of a hat-trick in the final of a World Cup, mentioned that it cannot be a simple coincidence. During an interview, Hurst complained that until now very little has been done despite the research and studies are clear and the sinister relations between playing professional football and developing dementia is no longer deniable. According to Geoff Hurst, however, it is not an issue of football matches as much as training. Hurst commented that during a football game a player hits the head ball two or three times while during a training session the footballers spend hours exercising his head ball skills.

Also, for Tommy Charlton, Bob and Jack’s younger brother, the connection is undeniable. In an interview, he reported that all the members of his family, uncles and brothers, who played professional football developed brain diseases. However, this is a topic that TVs and newspapers as well as football authorities tend to hide or downplay. Only few former players decided to speak up and, among them, Gary Lineker is arguably the most exposed one. When Bobby Charlton admitted publicly to be treated for dementia, in a tweet, Lineker highlighted the fact that he was not the only one to suffer this destiny.

However, very little has been done so far and, in more than one occasions, medical researchers and doctors have invited parents and coaches of not training kids below 11 years old to head ball skill and to avoid any head-to-head contact.

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