Former Scottish International Backs Call to Classify Heading as Industrial Injury

Former professional footballer and manager, Alex McLeish is supporting the growing demand for heading a football to be classified as an industrial injury.

The call follows increasing concerns over the damaging long-term neurological effects of repeatedly heading the ball, a major aspect of the sport.

Earlier this year, research commissioned by the Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association revealed that former football players are almost three-and-a-half times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than the general population.

The findings supported previous research in 2019 by experts at Glasgow University, which investigated fears that heading the ball could be linked to brain injuries.

Mr McLeish’s endorsement adds weight to a campaign led by Labour MSP Michael Marra, which aims at recognizing dementia among former footballers as an industrial injury.

This recognition would enable affected individuals to receive increased support. The call for such a reform is part of a larger campaign seeking to improve preventive measures, and possibly change the game rules to protect the health and safety of football players.

If successful, the move would result in ex-players receiving social security payments to help with living costs.

Mr McLeish, a celebrated figure for the Aberdeen and Scotland teams, has passionately spoken about his personal health concerns after a career marked by numerous heading of footballs.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme, McLeish said:

“Having seen Billy McNeill pass away, Gordon McQueen, guys like that, you know that it’s a huge part of football.

“A few years ago Jeff Astle at West Brom started the ball rolling in England.

“So I guess it is industrial injury.”