Peter Reid and Viv Anderson are among a group of former footballers who have teamed with parliamentarians to demand an urgent review into the possible link between heading the ball and dementia.
The group’s letter to Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has emerged two days after the family of World Cup winner Nobby Stiles said they had been told by experts his brain was severely damaged by repeatedly heading the ball.
In the letter, the group referenced the publication last year of the Field study, which sought to determine if there was a link between heading the ball and an increase risk of diseases such as dementia.
It said: “While the report said there was no definitive link, it confirmed that players were three and a half times more likely to die of dementia and other neurological diseases than the general population.
“Following the study’s publication, the FA in parallel with Uefa’s medical committee published new guidelines that apply to all young players.
“Measures included a complete prohibition of header training for children below the age of 12 and a graduated process to headers thereafter. We welcome these measures but believe they do not go far enough.”
The letter concluded by urging Dowden to ask parliament “to review the links between neurological diseases and heading the ball and whether the guidelines are adequate to protect players at every level of the game”.
The letter is co-ordinated by the former Charlton and Chelsea player Mickey Ambrose and, besides Reid and Anderson, it is also signed by Clive Wilson, Dean Wilkins, Vinny Samways, Mark McCammon, Darren Moore and Phil Brown.
The League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan said Dowden and the government must recognise the severity of dementia in football and help in the effort to combat the condition.
Bevan, a board member for the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘Sport United Against Dementia’ initiative, said: “A letter was sent to the Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden. Despite his reputation in football of not answering letters, let’s hope the government really understand the importance of calling for more research and the recognition of dementia as an industrial condition.”
The DCMS had no official comment to make when contacted by PA about Bevan’s remarks although it says the contents of the letter will be considered, with a response issued in due course.
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