DANIEL PARSLOW: I worry about the damage caused by heading

‘I dread to think of how many footballs I headed’: Former York defender Daniel Parslow admits fear of ‘damage’ during his career after a concussion forced him to retire last year as he insists temporary substitutes are an ‘absolute MUST’

  • Daniel Parslow had to retire last year after a concussion while playing for York 
  • It seemed like an innocuous blow initially but he was left bed-ridden for weeks 
  • Temporary concussion substitutes would prevent any further risk, says Parslow 

Daniel Parslow is a former York and Cheltenham defender who was forced to retire aged 33 last year because of a concussion. 

Here he explains to DAVID COVERDALE why it is essential to introduce concussion substitutes to the game immediately, one of Sportsmail’s demands in our 7-point charter to tackle dementia.

Playing centre half, I’ve thrown my head in stupid places and bumped it numerous times. But February 2019 — in a match for York against Hereford — was the first time I experienced a concussion.

I was forced to retire last year after suffering from a terrible concussion while playing for York 

It seemed like an innocuous blow at the time but I was left bid-ridden for weeks with migraines

It was an innocuous blow. I headed the ball from a goal kick and the centre forward jumped into me and caught me on my temple with his forearm. I received treatment, but I was responsive straight away. I knew where I was, I passed all the basic questions.

I was deemed fit to continue but when I was back on the field, my symptoms kicked in. That is where the real danger is. I was fortunate that it was just before half-time because I quickly deteriorated — dizziness, nausea, loss of balance.

I literally stumbled back into the dressing room at half-time. If I had picked up a second blow in that state, it doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened. Second impact syndrome can be fatal.

Temporary concussion substitutions would solve that and prevent any risk. Their introduction is an absolute must.

Bringing in concussion substitutes would reduce the risk of serious injury posed to footballers

I don’t know what it will take. I was fortunate I didn’t suffer that second blow, but heaven forbid it happens next week, next month, next year. If these substitutions still aren’t brought in, then we have just been negligent.

I assumed I would be safe to return to play a week or two after my concussion. Instead I was bed-ridden for nearly four weeks — migraines, sensitivity to light, just shattered. As days went by I became more and more worried that this was a lot more serious. I thought it was a slow bleed but a CT scan proved otherwise.

Then I slowly tried to step up my rehab. I was trying to jog but I would pass out. I would fall over at the training ground. I was getting more upset that I wasn’t getting better.

Six weeks after the knock, I saw a sport concussion specialist and he confirmed I still had concussion symptoms.

Too many people dismiss the link between football and dementia and that could be so harmful

My contract was up at the end of June. York said I wouldn’t get a new deal and I was in no fit state to earn one elsewhere, so that was when I decided to retire.

Even now, I worry about my symptoms. I still struggle with fatigue and exhaustion. I know that I am not right and that is the hardest thing.

A GP said that unless they cut my brain open, no one will know what’s going on. It is just learning to live with it as best you can, which is not what you want to hear when you are only 35 and have the rest of your life to live.

Knowing that I was so fit and able last year and losing that in a moment is frustrating, but I hope some good comes of my story.

We need to listen to what we know. Too many people are disregarding the proven link between footballers and dementia. There is real danger here and the game says: ‘Football is football.’ That could be so harmful. We have advanced research, we would be fools to ignore it. We can’t just say, ‘90 per cent of footballers are OK so we are going to wash our hands of the other 10 per cent’. We have a duty of care to make sure football is safe.

If football doesn’t make changes to keep players safe then we are being negligent to them 

Setting a limit of 20 headers per session would be a good start. Twenty in one session is enough anyway.

The PFA need to make sure their players are being looked after. I also think more help needs to come from the FA, FIFA and IFAB because, until everyone realises the dangers, there is always going to be someone putting a block on it.

I lost my grandmother to dementia. It is a horrible illness. To see the person you love and care about just disappear in front of your eyes is heartbreaking. More support for families and carers is a fantastic idea.

I worry about getting it myself because I played football for a long time. I dread to think how many footballs I have headed over the years and the damage it caused.

But I am not going to know until I get a little bit older. You just hope you have a healthy life and you get to spend it with the people you love.

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