De­men­tia & foot­ball: PFA tells Alan Shearer it is un­sure on num­bers

Tehran Times - - WORLD SPORTS -

Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers’ As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Gordon Tay­lor says he does not know how many of its 50,000 mem­bers have de­men­tia.

Tay­lor was talk­ing in a BBC doc­u­men­tary in which for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Alan Shearer in­ves­ti­gates the link be­tween the dis­ease and head­ing foot­balls.

The PFA and the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion have pledged to fund re­search and sup­port for­mer play­ers with de­men­tia.

“At least now peo­ple have started to look for an­swers,” Shearer said.

“Nowhere near enough re­search has been done so far. For too long it has been swept un­der the car­pet, which is why so many peo­ple are an­gry - and rightly so.

“But even be­fore we have find­ings, foot­ball must look af­ter old play­ers with de­men­tia and put an end to this sense that once you are done with play­ing you are put on the scrapheap. Peo­ple still have a life to lead.

“There are 850,000 peo­ple in the United King­dom suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia and there are a lot of foot­ballers in those num­bers.

“But the re­al­ity is, and the sad thing is, we don’t know how many and that can’t be right.”

First link to de­men­tia was made 15 years ago

The link be­tween head­ing the ball and de­men­tia was first made in 2002 dur­ing the in­quest into the death of for­mer West Brom and Eng­land striker Jeff As­tle.

As­tle died from de­men­tia aged 59 and the coro­ner who found signs of brain in­jury - called chronic trau­matic en- cephalopa­thy (CTE) - said the dam­age had been caused by years of head­ing a foot­ball.

Shearer said As­tle had been di­ag­nosed with an in­dus­trial dis­ease, but lit­tle has been done since de­spite sev­eral high-pro­file ex-play­ers also be­ing di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia.

They in­clude 1966 Eng­land World Cup win­ners Nobby Stiles, Martin Peters and Ray Wil­son, Liver­pool le­gends Ron Yeats and Tommy Smith and Celtic’s Euro­pean Cup-win­ning cap­tain Billy McNeill.

Could head­ing be banned?

When the link was made in the United States be­tween brain trauma from re­peated blows to the head and CTE in re­tired NFL play­ers, the NFL quickly set up a com­pen­sa­tion fund worth $750m (£569m).

PFA chief ex­ec­u­tive Tay­lor ac­knowl­edged that foot­ball needs to do the same sort of in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the dam­age caused by head­ing, and says plans are al­ready in place.

Tay­lor says the PFA is look­ing to build a data­base of mem­bers with de­men­tia, and told Shearer: “It has been put to me that maybe clubs are very wary be­cause there may be com­pen­sa­tion.

“But you can only be neg­li­gent if you know for cer­tain that there is this link.

“What I am say­ing is that foot­ball has a duty to see if there is a causal link, be­cause if there is, and if that could sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease the prob­lems in later life, then we need to look at the rules of the game and ad­dress it.”

What will the study in­volve?

The FA and PFA com­mis­sioned joint re­search into the is­sue in March.

They will study a group of for­mer pro­fes­sional foot­ballers and the FA’s med­i­cal per­for­mance di­rec­tor Dr Char­lotte Cowie says it will pro­vide re­li­able an­swers “as quickly as pos­si­ble”.

When asked by Shearer whether the FA had run away from the is­sue in the past, Cowie replied: “One thing I can say with con­fi­dence is that I feel we are run­ning to­wards this prob­lem at the mo­ment.

“The FA made a con­scious de­ci­sion not to wait for [world gov­ern­ing body] Fifa or [Euro­pean foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing body] Uefa and I think that was the right de­ci­sion. It was prob­a­bly a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to make.

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