PETER CROUCH: Alan Shearer show makes me think I need scan

As football gets to grips with the worrying link between heading the ball and dementia, I needed to see Alan Shearer's BBC documentary.

Standing at the other end of the pitch, I was in awe. But sitting in my living room last Sunday evening, Shearer made me think about what is becoming an increasingly serious issue.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the effect that heading a ball might have later in life. I'm a forgetful person anyway and my wife, Abbey, has always said to me, 'That's the one that will get you!'.

Crouch has been discussing Alan Shearer's documentary with Stoke team-mates this week

Crouch says the documentary has made him certain he will be tested for CTE in the future

In my early years, I wanted to be like Paul Gascoigne. You don't want to be heading balls every day. I was more interested in trying scissor-kicks like the great Italian striker Gianluca Vialli.

The thing you don't realise is that every time you head the ball, your brain shakes. Every single time. Have you ever headed a ball badly and seen stars for a couple of seconds? That's your brain shaking. Let's be honest, that can't be healthy, can it?

Shearer investigated the links between heading a football and dementia in a BBC programme 

I always believed the problem was for a different generation. I've seen the tragic stories about Jeff Astle and Nobby Stiles and I put it down to the old balls they played with.

On a wet day, they used to be like a medicine ball but in normal conditions the balls we use now are actually heavier, according to Shearer's programme.

On Monday morning, at our training ground in Stoke, I sat with a few of the lads who had also watched it and spoke about some of the issues. Kind lot that they are, they said to me: 'Well, you're f****d!' and it was greeted with roaring laughter!

In all seriousness, watching the documentary made me certain that I will have a scan for CTE — Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy — at some point to see if all those aerial battles have made a mark. The damage is also known as boxer's brain.

Crouch has headed in 52 Premier League goals - including his most recent against Leicester

Football is far more careful these days. I've been knocked out before and just got up and played on. Now we have rules for concussion. Four players in our dressing room have suffered from it this season, but they have to wait for the medical all-clear before returning.

It hasn't made me change my approach. I'll still be looking for headers against Brighton on Monday night. You don't think about the consequences — the rewards of scoring a goal far outweigh the pain of getting a whack in the head. But I did draw one conclusion after I had switched off the TV the other night. As a sport, we must explore this more.

Whether it is the PFA or the FA, they need to do more and lead the way. They can't say they haven't had people coming to them or warning them. We have to find out whether there is a link.

I'm not saying anything radical should be done, in the way America banned kids from heading balls in November 2015.

Heading is a skill and it would be a shame to lose that from the game. There is nothing more dramatic than when you see someone score a diving header, for instance. Think of the players I grew up watching — Andy Gray, Mick Harford, Duncan Ferguson.

Crouch can head the ball around 20 times during a Premier League encounter 

Niall Quinn was so skilful the way he would cushion the ball down for Kevin Phillips. To ban heading would be such a shame, though at least my headed goals record would stay intact!

But it only takes a documentary like this to make everyone think. This is too big a topic for footballers, past and present, to ignore. There have been huge improvements in the way players are looked after medically since I started playing. It is clear, however, we can still do more.

When you think of the great teams from the Premier League era, two spring to mind - Manchester United's 1999 Treble winners and the Arsenal Invincibles of 2003-04.

The way things are going this season, Manchester City have the potential to be just as good as those history-makers. Stoke felt their full force last month when they beat us 7-2.

Kevin De Bruyne has been instrumental in Manchester City's phenomenal start to the season

One thing that stands out for me from that day was Kevin De Bruyne. He produced one of the best performances I've ever seen 'live'. The weight of his passing was absolutely devastating. I wouldn't rule United out of the race but, as things stand, the title is City's to lose. 

If they start winning trophies under Pep Guardiola, they have the potential to be remembered like the other greats.

One of the biggest barriers I had to clear early in my career was my appearance: people used to look at me and assume I couldn't play football.

We played against Hull last season and apart from the quality of his defending, I remember him at one point in the game doing a step-over and then pinging a pass 70 yards across field into feet. I thought to myself: 'Hang on? Is this Beckenbauer!' I was convinced he'd end up at a top-six club.

Crouch has been impressed by Leicester's Harry Maguire when he has played against him

Crouch thinks England's stubborn defensiveness can serve them well at the 2018 World Cup 

I'm not being disrespectful to Leicester but if he played for Manchester City people would be talking about him a lot more than they are now.

A number of players could feel proud with how they performed at Wembley but none more so than Harry. Clean sheets against Germany and Brazil offered signs of progress for England as a whole. Of course everyone wants to see goals but with Gareth Southgate preparing for the World Cup, it is absolutely vital to have your defence in order.

If we can defend like that in Russia next summer — England conceded the fewest goals (three) of any European nation in qualifying — we will always have a chance. In major tournaments, you have to stay in games to reach the latter stages.

Look at Portugal. They won the last European Championship by playing that way. Yes, it wasn't pretty at times and they didn't win one game in the group stages, but it was effective and they ended up lifting the trophy, which is all that matters.

I know it was obvious how much more comfortable on the ball Brazil were, and they were a joy to watch at times on Tuesday night.

We need to keep possession a lot better than we did but being tough to beat is a good platform to work from. It's been proved you can win tournaments that way.

Sadness seemed to be the main feeling following the World Cup play-offs, with Italy's failure to qualify the big story.

It's a real shame that a legend like Gianluigi Buffon won't get to end his career on that stage but I was more disappointed that neither the Republic of Ireland nor Northern Ireland will be involved next summer.

I worked for ITV at Euro 2016 and the atmosphere the supporters from both countries generated made those four weeks in France memorable.

Italy and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will be major misses at next year's tournament in Russia

One story in particular stands out from a flight I took with a couple of hundred fans of Northern Ireland.

We were flying from the south of France back to Paris and the singing before we had even taxied to the runway was unreal. I was sitting towards the front of the plane, wearing what I call my 'train hat' and trying my best to go unseen — which isn't easy when you're 6ft 7in.

I'd heard a couple of shouts of 'Crouchy' and, before I knew it, my hat had been whipped off my head.

Northern Ireland fans created a magnificent atmosphere when their team was at Euro 2016 

There was only one thing for it at that point so I joined in the revelry, standing in the aisle and singing 'Will Grigg's On Fire' with them at 35,000 feet!

Safe to say I had never been on a flight like that before but it was brilliant to see them all enjoying themselves so much. They would have brought colour and fun to Russia in 2018. The tournament will be poorer without either nation.

It was a nightmare sitting at home watching England on TV when I still want to play for my country. I may be 36 but I've never retired from international football — Gareth, you know my number! — but now I have discovered there are at least some perks to being a washed-up international. 

Crouch saw U2 play live for the first time at Trafalgar Square recently 

Last Saturday I saw U2 play an intimate gig at Trafalgar Square. It's the first time I've seen them live, so I'm glad that's one I can tick off the list. I also saw Liam Gallagher at Bethnal Green Working Men's club. I never thought I'd get to see Wonderwall played live again in my lifetime, so being four rows from the front was an experience — even if it wasn't for the people behind me!

Given I went to see him, Liam Gallagher's album As You Were has been on a lot this week. The best track on the album is Bold. 

I also like Wolf Alice. Their album Visions Of A Life is getting some play at the minute with Beautifully Unconventional the standout.

Marco Silva. I'm not surprised Everton want him to be their next manager. He reminds me of Mauricio Pochettino in the way his team is so well-organised. Watford are lucky to have him. I'm sure he'll get a top-six club one day.

Brighton on Monday night and that means we are up against Chris Hughton, for whom I have so much respect. He looked after me when I was a lad at Spurs. 

He once came to get me in Sweden when my loan club, Hassleholm, wouldn't let me leave the country and withheld my passport. 

Thanks Chris, but I hope you're on the losing side on Monday!

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November 20, 2017

Sources:` Daily Mail

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