Soccer - Man United's Varane says concussions have done lasting damage to body

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Nottingham Forest v Manchester United - The City Ground, Nottingham, Britain - December 30, 2023 Manchester United's Raphael Varane arrives before the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith/File Photo

(Reuters) - Manchester United defender Raphael Varane has said concussions have damaged his body as he stressed the importance of creating more awareness among players around the dangers of heading.

The Frenchman said he had suffered a concussion a few days before playing in France's 1-0 defeat to Germany in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup, as well at his former club Real Madrid when they lost to Manchester City in the last 16 second leg of the 2020 Champions League.

The 30-year-old retired from international football after a 10-year career with Les Bleus, during which he won the World Cup in 2018 and was a runner-up four years later.

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

"Even if it doesn't cause any immediate trauma, we know that in the long term, repeated shocks 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 headers need to be taught on all amateur football pitches and to young people."

Researchers have found evidence suggesting that repetitive heading of balls during a professional soccer career is associated with a higher risk of cognitive impairment in later life, according to a study commissioned by England's Football Association (FA).

The FA have trialled removing deliberate heading in matches across the Under-12 level, with other countries including Scotland banning heading on the days immediately before and after matches.

The International Football Association Board in March said additional permanent concussion substitutions will be enshrined in football's laws but it remains an option which is up to organisers of individual competitions to implement.

"No matter how much the player says he wants to play, the medical staff have to veto it, because it puts players' lives at risk," Varane said.

"We also have to make the player understand that it's not showing his strength to continue playing after a serious injury, but that the real strength lies in getting out, stopping playing and resting.

"This can be difficult for a top-level athlete to take on board."

Varane added that he missed a few games for United this season due to symptoms of concussion.

(Reporting by Pearl Josephine Nazare in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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