Thirty former professionals have signed as much as a examine into the early indicators of dementia amid issues for contemporary footballers’ well being.
Five of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad have been identified with the illness.
But the neurosurgeon who led analysis into soccer’s hyperlinks with dementia has warned the difficulty is “not just for older-era footballers but modern-era footballers as well”.
Dr Willie Stewart, of Glasgow University, additionally stated lighter fashionable footballs “could make the problem even worse” due to the pace they journey earlier than placing a participant’s head.
Former Premier League gamers and internationals are among the many 30 who’ve joined a examine, led by Dr Michael Grey at University of East Anglia, which has began gathering outcomes.
They embrace former Wales and Norwich City ahead Iwan Roberts, who retired in 2005. He informed BBC Sport: “I’m 52 now and I’m a firm believer in prevention being better than cure, so I would rather know that by taking these tests – if something wasn’t right – I could put things into place or plan for the future.
“The fashionable participant now must be involved. The balls are lighter, however by being lighter they journey via the air faster and attain your head far faster.”
The study will add 30 former professional footballers to 40 amateurs over the age of 40, and compare them with a 60-strong group who have not played football.
Grey, who wants more former professionals to come forward, said interest so far had come from those who wanted to “assist the science” and those “taken with their very own mind well being”.
Their issues chime with these of Dawn Astle – the daughter of former West Brom striker Jeff Astle, who died of because of a brain condition associated with heading footballs.
She says she has been contacted by families of people who played in the 1970s and 1980s.
In addition to the death of World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, who had dementia, last week and Sir Bobby Charlton’s diagnosis with the same condition, Stewart referenced the recent passing of 36-year-old former Hearts and Rangers defender Marius Zaliukas, who had motor neurone illness (MND).
Stewart’s research, which was commissioned by the Football Association (FA) and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), also found that former footballers were four times more likely to die of MND.
Calls for extra analysis
Following Stewart’s findings, changes have been made to how heading is taught in youth football in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But Stewart is vital of how soccer has responded to his analysis, printed in October 2019. Roberts also says that more support could be offered to studies such as the one he is involved in.
“Credit to the FA and Scottish FA – they took that information and have tried to make changes to enhance the sport and cut back the chance,” said Stewart. “But there was silence from [world governing body] Fifa and [European governing body] Uefa and from different soccer associations.
“This is a global game – 250 million people play football regularly, Fifa tells us. Where is the global response to this?
“I believed [the research] can be sufficient for soccer to wrap its arms across the sport and cope with this severely – to say: ‘This is one thing we have to put extra effort into, with extra analysis and mitigate towards future issues.’ And none of that has occurred.”
A Fifa spokesperson said it takes brain injuries in football “very severely”, adding: “Protecting the well being of gamers is – and can stay – a prime precedence in growing the sport.”
It also said its concussion expert group was focused on introducing an “further everlasting substitution”, with a trial due as soon as is permitted.
Uefa said it has introduced updated heading guidelines based on independent research and is running a concussion awareness campaign.
Roberts added: “It’s not like folks wish to somebody responsible, that is not why I received concerned with the examine. But once you see so many gamers with dementia – and it is not simply the gamers, it is their households as effectively that should undergo the disappointment – I really feel the FA and PFA might do much more, particularly with a lot cash within the sport these days.”
Asked if he would be worried if he was a Premier League player, Stewart added: “I definitely would.
“The sideline treatment of head injuries in football is woefully inadequate and if you can compare it to rugby it’s dreadful, from a bygone era. The exposure to head injuries and impacts has not changed, it’s not cutting back from heading in training, for instance.
“The solely manner we are going to know whether or not one thing has modified is to attend till present Premier League footballers are of their 60s and 70s, however by then it is too late.
“I don’t want to come back in 40 years’ time, if I’m still around, and do the research and find nothing has changed and dementia risk is just as high in modern footballers.”
The FA stated it had made an “ongoing commitment to explore and invest in further research” and added that its subsequent venture would examine the causes of elevated loss of life from mind illnesses, highlighted by Stewart’s examine. It can also be supporting to additional research into the early indicators of mind accidents in former footballers.
The PFA is supporting two research, one on head accidents in sport and one with the Drake Foundation, the place 300 former gamers are being recruited to assist analysis into hyperlinks between heading the ball and concussion or long-term cognitive perform.