‘Something needs to change’ – Wayne Rooney speaks on football’s dementia issue

Wayne Rooney says "something needs to change" as too many former footballers are dying of dementia.

Nobby Stiles, like Rooney a former Manchester United and England player, died at the age of 78 last month, having been diagnosed with dementia and prostate cancer.

The death of the 1966 World Cup winner and the news team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton had also been diagnosed with dementia saw a renewed call for more investigations into the issues of head impacts and an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease.

Stiles' son John has backed calls to look at the amount of heading professional players do in training, while Sir Geoff Hurst and former England striker Gary Lineker want heading restricted in training at all levels.

Rooney said: "It's very important. I think the amount of players who have died in recent years from the disease is too many.

40 PHOTOS
Wayne Rooney
See Gallery
Wayne Rooney
Everton's Wayne Rooney has a drink as his manager David Moyes (l) gives him instructions
Everton's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring the equalising goal.
Arsenal's Thierry Henry congratulates Everton's Wayne Rooney at the end of the game after Rooney scored the winning goal
Everton's Wayne Rooney gets into a pushing match with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard.
England's Francis Jeffers (centre right) is congratulated by team-mates after scoring against Australia during the friendly International match against Australia at Upton Park, east London. Australia defeated England 3-1. THIS PICTURE CAN ONLY BE USED WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF AN EDITORIAL FEATURE. NO WEBSITE/INTERNET USE UNLESS SITE IS REGISTERED WITH FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION PREMIER LEAGUE.
England's Wayne Rooney and Turkey's Buruk Okan battle for the ball
l-r; England's Michael Owen celebrates scoring the opening goal with Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney
England's Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Switzerland, with David Beckham (right) during the Euro 2004, first round, Group B match at the Cidade de Coimbra, Portugal. EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO MOBILE PHONE OR PDA USE. INTERNET USE ONLY ON UEFA AUTHORISED SITES AND THEN, NO MORE THAN 10 PHOTOGRAPHS PER HALF OF NORMAL PLAYING TIME AND FIVE PHOTOGRAPHS PER HALF OF EXTRA TIME CAN BE PUBLISHED VIA THE INTERNET WITH AN INTERVAL OF AT LEAST ONE MINUTE BETWEEN THE POSTING OF EACH SUCH PHOTOGRAPH.
England's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring the 2nd goal
Manchester United's new signing Wayne Rooney (r) and manager Sir Alex Ferguson pose with his shirt
Manchester United's new signing Wayne Rooney (l) with his girlfriend Coleen McCloughlin
l-r; Manchester United's captain Roy Keane congratulates opening goal scorer Wayne Rooney.
England captain David Beckham (R) attempts to console Wayne Rooney after he is shown the yellow card.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney with the PFA Young Player of the Year Award he received at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.
Britain's Prince William speaks to injured England striker Wayne Rooney (right) during a visit to the England World Cup squad training camp at the Carrington Training Ground, Manchester.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney as Celtic fans hold aloft scalfs
Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin during their visit to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool, where they opened a new unit for children with brain illnesses.
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the third goal with teammate Wayne Rooney (l)
manchester United's Wayne Rooney and goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate a late winner ar Craven Cottage
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney lifts the English Premier League trophy
Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin at the Gary Neville and Emma Hadfield wedding, Manchester Cathedral, Manchester.
Manchester United players (l-r) Michael Carrick, John O'Shea, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney during a training at the Stade Gerland in Lyon, France.
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney with the Premier League trophy
England's Wayne Rooney scores his sides second goal
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (centre) joins David Beckham (left) and Wayne Rooney to launch England's 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids at Wembley Stadium, London.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates after his cross is turned in by Hull City's Andy Dawson, to give his side their second goal of the game
Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney arrives at Manchester Civil Court, where he will give evidence in court later today as he fights a 4.3 million lawsuit.
Wayne Rooney leaves the Westin Grand Hotel, Munich, Germany.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (left) with his trophy for PFA Players Player of the Year, and Aston Villa's James Milner with his trophy for PFA Young Player of the Year, at the PFA Player of the Year Awards 2010 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.
England's Wayne Rooney (left) walks past manager Fabio Capello (right) dejected as he is substituted
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring the winning goal during the UEFA Champions League, Group C match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow.
England's Wayne Rooney with his wife Coleen and son Kai, leave the team hotel in Krakow, Poland.
England's Wayne Rooney and Ukraine's Denys Garmash battle for the ball
A heavily pregnant Coleen Rooney (centre) with husband Wayne Rooney and their son Kai, on the pitch to celebrate Manchester United winning the Barclays Premier League, after the game
England's Harry Kane (left) celebrates scoring his sides first goal of the game with team-mate Wayne Rooney during the UEFA European Qualifying match at Wembley Stadium, London.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney holding the Emirates FA Cup trophy
(From left to right) Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, massuer Rod Thornley and manager Jose Mourinho pose for a picture during the training session at the Aon Training Complex, Carrington.
Everton's Wayne Rooney celebrates his second goal of the game
England's Wayne Rooney during a guard of honour
Nov 1, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Wayne Rooney (9) stands on the field before the game against the Columbus Crew at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"It's difficult to see former players dying so young and knowing football might have been a part of that. It's really sad. You feel sad for the families of these guys who've passed way.

"The more research, the better. If that means with young children we stop them heading the ball in training...I don't know – but clearly something needs to change to make sure this doesn't happen to the next generation of players."

Rooney, currently interim manager at Sky Bet Championship strugglers Derby, continued: "There's times when you see these things happening to former players, losing their lives, of course it crosses your mind.

"Obviously when you have young children you don't want to lose your life so early because you headed the ball too many times.

"If not heading the ball so many times in training means you're going to live another 10-15 years then that's the natural thing, that's the thing that makes most sense to do.

Soccer - International Friendly - Holland v England - Amsterdam ArenA
Wayne Rooney headed the ball many times as a player (Owen Humphreys/PA)

"My eldest boy (Kai), when we lived in the United States, in his football team heading was banned in training and games.

"I thought, 'how could the ball be coming into young kids and them not head it?' But no one did, they let the ball run through."

Meanwhile, West Brom manager Slaven Bilic says potential changes to training methods and ball design must be explored.

The 52-year-old accepts the game would not be the same if heading was banned completely, but believes more can be done to reduce potential associated problems with small adjustments to training.

Slaven Bilic (right) was part of the Croatia side which reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup
Slaven Bilic (right) was part of the Croatia side which reached the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup (John Giles/PA)

He said: "I headed the ball and it was a big part of my game. To be good in a game you have to do it in training.

"Now I think the situation is a bit better today because if you are talking about when (former West Brom and England striker) Jeff Astle played, for example – those types of balls were, like, big.

"When I started the balls were heavy. They were full of water when it was raining or wet.

"I remember in training when you headed you thought sometimes, 'it is a hard ball.' Nowadays the balls are much lighter.

"If they find out through the research that heading the ball 10 times during training is going to cause you dementia, then let's stop it. Let's find a way.

A coroner ruled that the death of former England striker Jeff Astle (right) was caused by repeated heading of a football
A coroner ruled that the death of former England striker Jeff Astle (right) was caused by repeated heading of a football (PA)

"But for me the great thing going forward is they are talking about it and recognising it.

"What solution they are going to find I don't know, but they are spending hours, days and months researching it and they will have to do something.

"But are they going to stop heading in games? Then it's not football any more.

"It's a great thing and it was about time for the game to recognise it. It's a great step forward."

He added: "I remember (as a young player) we used to play with a smaller, lighter ball, so there is a way, especially with the better technology.

"We had a great exercise. The ball was on a rope and you were heading it all the time, but that ball doesn't have to be a proper ball.

"It is not about the ball but the opposition and your timing. It is about your leap and jump.

"If I think about it now I would say why not stop it completely? The kids can have a ball, but maybe a plastic, soft ball or a sponge ball."

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS