Manchester United legend Gary Pallister details dementia fears due to heading

The former Manchester United and Middlesbrough defender has spoken about the physical impact that heading footballs had on him during his career

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  • 10:46, 12 Oct 2021
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Gary Pallister, the former Manchester United and Middlesbrough defender, has spoken of his concerns about dementia after admitting to getting migraines even after his career ended.


The 56-year-old hung up his boots in 2001 but admits headaches and migraines were severe, even after retirement.

His comments come at a time when heading in the game is under more scrutiny than ever before.

More and more research is being done on the topic of player's health being impacted by the consistent heading of balls. Research from brain injury specialist Professor Willie Stewart found professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of neuro-degenerative disease than age-matched members of the general population.

Gary Pallister has spoken of his concerns over dementia, given the pain inflicted by consistently heading the ball during his career

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph , Pallister said: “I’m probably one of those who have stuck my head in the sand and thought, ‘I hope it’s not me’.

"I suffered awful migraines. I’ve been knocked clean out. I’ve been on the pitch, woken up and not known where I am.

“You put it all together and you start thinking, ‘Crikey, I’m a prime candidate for dementia’.

"It’s not a 100 per cent thing, I’m guessing, but you are thinking, ‘If you are a betting man, the odds are that you are probably at some time in your life going to get it’.”

Last month saw a trial game take place that included a full half of football with no heading allowed.

The charity match at Spennymoor Town was organised by charity Head for Change, with Pallister one of the ex-pros involved.

The football authorities in England introduced a limit of 10 “higher force” headers per week in training for the adult game, from professional through to grassroots, in the summer.

The authorities have limited clubs to ten "higher-force" headers in training a week

Looking back on his own career and the impact that consistent high-force headers had on him, Pallister added: "It’s black and white for me now that football was one of the main reasons I was probably getting them.

“I had to go into a darkened room. I started throwing up. I would lose my speech. Get tingling on my arms. Lose my vision. Get blurred vision.

"It felt like I had a head full of seashells. Any movement caused pain. It was a really weird feeling. It would wipe me out for two days.”

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