Nigel Thornton: Ban heading from kids’ football?

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

One of the proudest moments of my young life came as an eight-year-old right back playing in a semi final for my school Waterloo Juniors.

We were 1-0 up and hanging on after a titanic battle on a swamp of a pitch (weren’t they all). Suddenly a last minute shot hurtled towards our top corner.

Up popped yours truly to head the ball off the line and secure a place in the final.

Heading a football was a daily part of my life.I loved it, but I don’t know if there will be a price to pay in future. Will I suffer the early onset of dementia because of the simple, joyful boyhood pleasure?

Former Posh star Chris Turner is a legend in these parts. Sadly, he suffered an early death and before that years of illness suffering dementia.

His wife Lynne believed this was caused by heading too many heavy footballs.

Back in 2014 before Chris died, Lynne told the BBC: “The FA have really got to acknowledge that there is something going on. It’s not for Chrissy, because he’s never going to benefit. It’s too late for him, but it’s for kids now who are heading balls.’’

In the US children under the age of 10 are banned from heading the ball after fears over the number of concussions and subsequent long term damage.

Now the debate has reopened in the UK. It follows hot on the heels of calls from doctors to ban tackling from junior rugby.

Last week in his PT column MP Stewart Jackson made an impassioned plea to reject such calls.

My initial reaction was to agree with him and if you’d have asked me 10 years ago I’d have vociferously opposed any ban.

But now I’m a father of two young children and I have to balance the twin objectives of keeping them safe and equipping them for life.

When my children are 18, they can jump out of planes, climb mountains or swim with sharks. It will be their choice.

I want them to be fit and active, I want them to have fun. I want them to know the joy I felt when I headed that ball off the line... but I also want them to be able to remember it.

They work for us

The Government has responded to the record-breaking petition (more than 800,000 names) for the Meningitis B vaccination programme to be extended to all children.

I say responded, well, it has trotted out the same old justification for ignoring the call by banging on about “cost effectiveness’’.

Sweetheart tax deals with hugely profitable big businesses are no doubt cost-effective too.

Keys to the Quays

The latest news from the Fletton Quays development – that’s the South Bank if you are older than three – is underwhelming to say the least. Peterborough City Council is set to be the “anchor tenant’’ for the £120 million development.

It doesn’t suggest that big-name companies are queueing up to move there.

Central to the city’s well-being

Central Park, most people would agree, is a fine asset to the city and something worth cherishing and protecting. The PT has opened up quite a debate on its current state with a spectrum of views ranging from ‘no-go area’ to “entirely safe’’. The truth is probably somewhere in between but the debate can only be a good thing.

Diary Of A Bad Dad

There are some words that are like a red rag to a bull. In my case it’s when someone, usually an overpaid twit on the telly, refers to Manchester United as “United’’ as if there was only one.

In Toddler T’s case it’s “you’re tired’’. Such a claim is guaranteed to spark toddler fury – little hands go on little hips and her face contorts into the cutest thunder you can ever imagine.

Last weekend was a ridiculously hectic social whirl for Toddler T. As well as her usual tap, ballet and swimming classes she had no fewer than three parties to go to (plus a Mother’s Day lunch with mum and grandma).

It made me tired just thinking about it, but Toddler T is made of sterner stuff. If she’d been linked to the National Grid she’d have used enough energy to light up a small town for a month.

By late Sunday afternoon as the third and final party drew to a close, it started to catch up on her.

One minute she was playing with her friends the next, inexplicably, she burst into tears. Mrs T thought she must have bumped her head, but it was mental rather than physical pain.

Sobbing, she explained (a tad dramatically): “My friends have given up on me.’’

We didn’t dare suggest she was just tired.