Manchester United defender Raphael Varane has admitted that he does not allow his son to head soccer balls. Heading has become a hot topic in the sport in recent years as more research is conducted on the issue. The United States Soccer Federation has banned children under the age of 11 from heading soccer balls. Youth players from 11 to 12 can also only use their heads up to 20 times a week during practices.

There are, however, no limits to heading in official games among youngsters in this specific age group. In England, where Varane now resides, there are currently ongoing tests regarding the issue. Officials in the European nation are in year two of a trial to ban players under 12 from heading.

Varane spoke on the topic of heading, among other things, during a recent interview with L’Equipe. “My 7-year-old son plays football, and I advise him not to head the ball,” claimed the Red Devils defender.

“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.”

Varane says he has missed a match this season due to “micro-concussion”

Varane’s comments regarding his son come as the star admitted to having featured for club and country while suffering the effects of head injuries. The center-back claimed to have been concussed during a matchup with Nigeria at the 2014 World Cup.

Despite the injury, the Frenchman finished the round of 16 fixture in his nation’s 2-0 victory. Varane then went on to play a full 90 minutes against Germany just a few days later. France was eventually knocked out of the tournament by the Germans in the quarterfinals. While he managed to play both matches, Varane says that he was on “autopilot” on the pitch.

The 30-year-old defender also claimed that he missed a match earlier this season while with United due to “micro-concussions” caused by headers. The center-back did not specify which games he missed due to the head injury.

Varane was not named in manager Erik ten Hag’s squad for seven total matches this season. Ten Hag previously only labeled one of Varane’s injuries as a “minor issue.” The defender also missed a matchup with West Ham due to an illness.

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

“Earlier this season, I headed the ball repeatedly during a match for Man 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.”

Brains do not finish development until someone reaches their 20s

Banning heading in youth players certainly seems like a good move. As more research is conducted, repeated head injuries have been shown to be a main cause of encephalopathy (CTE). The debilitating brain disease has been fairly prominent in National Football League stars. Retired soccer players are, however, also dealing with similar issues as well.

Teaching youngsters how to defend without heading the ball can certainly be a tough task. Nevertheless, it is a small price to pay for the health and safety of kids playing the sport. Additional research has shown that human brains do not fully develop until the mid-to-late 20s. The part of the brain that is directly behind the forehead, what players use to head soccer balls, is one of the last parts to mature.