Copping welcomes focus on head injuries after career cut short at 19

Arvind Sriram
·3-min read

By Arvind Sriram

(Reuters) - When Bobby Copping rose for a routine header during a training session with English third-tier club Peterborough United in July, little did he know he would end up in hospital, his dream of one day playing in the Premier League shattered at 19.

Poised to make his first-team breakthrough at the League One club, Copping was left without any vision and lost feeling on one side of his body after suffering a mini seizure which put him in hospital for four days.

Believed to have made a full recovery, Copping was on track to return to action in November but a recurrence of the problem forced him to retire last month, a decision necessitated by the toll the injury has had on his daily life.

"I have short-term memory loss, which is not great. I can't be a passenger in a car because I get really sick. Then just general headaches," Copping told Reuters, adding that doctors were unsure if his problems would ever fully go away.

"We would like to think that these things will sort of disappear over time, but there's no guarantee," he said.

Head injuries and their long-term effects have been in the spotlight since the death of England's Nobby Stiles, who along with many of his 1966 World Cup-winning team mates, including Jack and Bobby Charlton, had been diagnosed with dementia.

Rugby union has also grappled with the issue, with a group of former players filing a class-action lawsuit against World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), claiming their problems were caused by negligence.

In a joint statement in December, World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU said they take player safety very seriously.

"Rugby is a contact sport and while there is an element of risk to playing any sport, rugby takes player welfare extremely seriously and it continues to be our number one priority," they said.

Premier League soccer managers have called for a ban on heading in training, while concussion substitutes have been introduced in the top-flight for players who suffer head injuries.

Copping said he could not be certain if heading the ball led to his problems, but he welcomed the measures taken.

"I think it's a big topic that needs a lot more of an in-depth look," he said. "With my injury I can't be 100% sure that heading from a young age caused it.

"But the introduction of concussion substitutions and things like that is obviously good because it helps protect players."

Copping said players have to be honest about what they are feeling after sustaining head injuries and follow the necessary protocols.

"When they do tell whoever that they're experiencing these things, there needs to be proper protocol where they're not allowed to do anything until it goes away," he said.

"You can't play with your brain and long-term health so be honest, even though it's tough.

"It is something you have to do because you don't want to be 30-50 years down the line, suffering with day-to-day problems so just be honest."

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)