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Last Updated: Friday, 24 December, 2004, 13:55 GMT
Modern footballs 'not much safer'
Motion capture of footballs striking a wall
The study measured the impact of old and new footballs
Heading a modern-day football is not significantly safer than an old-style leather ball, a study by ballistics experts has found.

Experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Glasgow showed the impact created on players' heads had a similar force.

High-speed cameras showed both balls collapsed to about half their diameter.

Ballistics engineer Alan Birkbeck said it was like being struck by 10 bags of coal for 3/100ths of a second.

Mr Birkbeck said: "We captured pictures of an old-style and a modern ball hitting a wall at high speed, the speed that a professional footballer kicks the ball.

"What we found was that the force was enough to collapse both down to about half their diameter.

Personally, I'd rather be punched by a boxer
Alan Birkbeck
Ballistics and impact engineer
"We also weighed the leather ball when it was bone-dry and weighed the modern ball and there was only a gram or two of a difference.

"We then soaked the leather ball in water and this only added another gram of weight making the difference only a scale of two or three grams."

In 1998, former Celtic player Billy McPhail lost his legal case for disablement benefit over a claim that he developed the first stages of senile dementia as a result of heading the old fashioned, heavy, leather footballs.

However, in 2002 an inquest into the death of former West Brom striker Jeff Astle ruled that he died from a degenerative brain disease caused by heading heavy leather footballs.

Mr Birkbeck, a senior engineer at Glasgow's Mechanical and Engineering Department, said: "The modern ball is not really safer, a professional footballer strikes it at 80 or 90mph - with your head in the way that's the equivalent of being struck by 10 bags of coal in 3/100ths of a second.

"With an impact like that you would really want it over a longer time, rather than a short, sharp blow.

"Personally, I'd rather be punched by a boxer."

Warning over Astle's death
11 Nov 02 |  West Bromwich Albion
Headers 'lead to brain damage'
21 Sep 98 |  Health

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