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SportsMan Utd's Raphael Varane 'cry' over concussions from heading football; advises son...

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Man Utd’s Raphael Varane ‘cry’ over concussions from heading football; advises son against it

Manchester United defender, Raphael Varane, has opened up about the issue of concussions in football, revealing his personal experiences and advising caution, especially to his son.

Varane, who has encountered concussions while playing for France and Real Madrid, expressed concern over the inadequate awareness and handling of head injuries in the sport.

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Reflecting on incidents like the 2014 World Cup match against Nigeria, where he continued playing despite a concussion, Varane emphasised the need for better recognition and management of such injuries to prevent potential long-term consequences.

In an interview with L’Equipe, Varane said, “I finished the match but I’m in ‘autopilot’ mode. If someone had spoken to me at that time, I don’t even know if I would have been able to respond.”

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However, he did not dare to miss the World Cup quarterfinal against Germany, which Les Bleus lost 1-0.
“I was not in my normal state and so I was taken care of,” he said. “I had lost weight because I was dehydrated, I was out of shape but played because it was a World Cup quarterfinal.”

Varane also recounted another unsettling experience during a La Liga game for Real Madrid against Getafe in 2020. Following a blow to the head, he endured severe fatigue, prompting his substitution.

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Despite this, the effects lingered for days, leaving him drained. However, he had little time to recuperate, with a crucial Champions League fixture against Manchester City looming on the horizon.

He was not 100 percent in the warm-up and “felt like a spectator” during the match.

He was so exhausted that he “almost wanted to slap” himself in a desperate attempt to get back to his optimum level. It ended up being one of the worst displays of the French defender’s Real Madrid career, as his individual errors led to a 2-1 loss for Los Blancos.

Varane also disclosed that he became aware of micro-concussions – incremental head impacts leading to concussions – only recently and even had to sit out a game for United earlier this season due to “eye fatigue.”

“The first time I heard about [micro-concussions] was this season when specialists came in to talk to us about it… Often, as players, we don’t understand and we don’t even think about doing a test,” he said.

“Earlier this season, I headed the ball repeatedly during a match for Manchester United and felt abnormally tired in the following days, as well as having some eye fatigue. I reported it to the staff, who strongly recommended that I don’t play, and I took a test, which meant that I missed the next match.”

Varane says medical experts have suggested United players refrain from heading more than 10 times in training sessions. Although this cannot be maintained in a live match, the defender does not want his seven-year-old son to go through the same ordeal, and has hence advised him not to head the ball at all.

“My seven-year-old son plays football, and I advise him not to header the ball,” he said. “Even if it does not cause immediate trauma, we know that in the long term, repeated shocks are likely to have harmful effects. I don’t know if I will live to be 100, but I know that I have damaged my body. As footballers playing at the highest level, we are used to pain, we are a bit like soldiers, tough guys, symbols of physical strength, but these symptoms are almost invisible.

“If your leg hurts and you limp, everyone sees it. But with head injuries, it immediately feels weak to say that you are tired, that you have migraines or eye fatigue… So at first, we tell ourselves that it will pass.”

As United prepare for their upcoming match against Chelsea, Varane’s revelations serve as a reminder of the importance of prioritising player welfare and increasing awareness of concussion risks in football.

The FA protocol insists that no player should be allowed to continue if he is seemingly suffering from concussions in both matches and training sessions.

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