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Manchester United defender Raphaël Varane says his body has been ‘damaged’ after a number of concussions

<i>Shaun Botterill/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Raphael Varane of Manchester United heads the ball wide during the UEFA Champions League round Of 16 second-leg match between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford on March 15
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Raphael Varane of Manchester United heads the ball wide during the UEFA Champions League round Of 16 second-leg match between Manchester United and Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford on March 15

By Amy Woodyatt and Bea Adeleke, CNN

(CNN) — Manchester United defender Raphaël Varane has told French sports newspaper L’Équipe that his body has been “damaged” after he believes he sustained a number of concussions throughout his career.

The 30-year-old Varane pointed to several times when he played just days after he says he had a concussion, including in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup where France lost 0-1 to Germany, and with his former club Real Madrid against Manchester City in the round of 16 of the 2020 Champions League.

A concussion happens after a “bump, blow, or jolt to the head” or “a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any of these sudden movements can cause “the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull,” “chemical changes in the brain” and/or the “stretching and damaging” of brain cells, the CDC says.

The former French international said he put himself at risk by playing Germany just days after taking a hit to the head in a match against Nigeria, adding that staff were unsure if he was well enough to play.

“I felt eye strain. Looking back, I say to myself: if I had known it was a concussion, would I have said it, even if it meant not playing this match? I don’t even know if there were tests 10 years ago. How can I measure at that moment my ability to play or not?” Varane, who played for France in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, explained.

He added: “What we’ll never know is what would have happened if I had taken another knock to the head.”

The soccer star added that he had been reluctant to talk about the impact of head injuries over the years as he didn’t want to use them as “excuses” for his performance and that he doesn’t “blame the doctors.”

Varane stressed that there needs to be more awareness of how to identify and treat head injuries, as players can feel “weak” if they admit they feel unwell.

“As footballers playing at the highest level, we are used to pain, we are a bit like soldiers, hardened to pain, symbols of physical strength, but these
symptoms are almost invisible,” Varane told L’Équipe.

“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.”

Varane, now a father of three, added it is important that players, including amateur and younger ones, are made aware of the dangers of heading the ball.

“My seven-year-old son plays football, and I advise him not to do headers,” he added.

“Even if it does not cause immediate trauma, we know that in the long term, repeated shocks are likely to have harmful effects. Personally, I don’t know if I will live to be 100, but I know that I have damaged my body,” he explained.

Varane added that he has suffered head injuries this season while at Manchester United, explaining after a period of “abnormal tiredness” and “eye fatigue” he was advised not to play by staff and medical professionals.

CNN has reached out to the French Football Federation, Real Madrid and Manchester United for comment.

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