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Manchester United’s Raphael Varane Explains the Long Term Effects of His Concussion Injuries

Raphael Varane (Via ManUtd/Twitter)

Manchester United defender Raphaël Varane discussed the significant impact multiple concussions have had on his life, stating that he has “damaged his body.”

Varane, 30, shared with French outlet L’Equipe that he had played numerous games for both club and country while experiencing the effects of head injuries. He aims to raise awareness about what he believes is an underrepresented issue in modern football.

The former France international, who retired from international football in February 2023, revealed he suffered a concussion during his country’s 2014 World Cup round-of-16 match against Nigeria.

He noted that he finished the game on “autopilot” and said, “if someone had spoken to me at the time, I don’t know if I would have been able to respond.”

Varane recounted playing with head injury symptoms for Real Madrid against Manchester City in the Champions League during the COVID-19-affected 2019-20 season.

He described leaving the field against Getafe in a LaLiga game five days earlier and feeling “intensely tired” between games.

Raphael Varane (Via ManUtd/Twitter)

Initially, he attributed this to typical end-of-season fatigue, but during the warmup for the European game, he felt so exhausted that he “almost wanted to slap himself.”

The issue continues to affect Varane, causing him to miss games this season for Manchester United, particularly due to “micro-concussions” from headers.

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

“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.”

Varane also highlighted how the culture of men’s football contributes to the lack of discussions around head injuries.

“As footballers playing at the highest level, we are used to pain, we are a bit like soldiers, tough guys, symbols of physical strength, but these symptoms are almost invisible.

“If your leg hurts and you limp, everyone sees it. But with head injuries, it immediately feels weak to say that you are tired, that you have migraines or eye fatigue … So at first, we tell ourselves that it will pass.”

Raphael Varane (Via realmadriden/Twitter)

Varane believes changes are necessary to prevent players from being overexposed to head trauma from a young age and beyond.

“My 7-year-old son plays football, and I advise him not to header the ball.

“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.”

Repeated concussions can cause brain injury and lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a debilitating brain disease that can cause a range of negative symptoms as it progresses.

According to the protocol set out by England’s Football Association, if a player is suspected of having a concussion, they must be immediately removed from the pitch, whether in training or during a match.

Last month, football’s lawmakers, IFAB, approved the use of permanent concussion substitutions after repeated calls to do so from governing bodies and organizers, including the Premier League.

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