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Money can’t buy you a new brain, says Nobby Stiles’s widow

London (AFP) – The widow of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning midfielder Nobby Stiles says that the high wages that footballers earn is no compensation if they end their days with dementia.

Stiles died in October aged 78, becoming the most recent member of the England team to die of dementia-related causes.

“Nobody wants to end the last years of their lives in the states these lads have been,” Stiles’ widow Kay told the BBC.

“No matter how much money they earn, you can’t buy a new brain.”

Bobby Charlton, a team-mate of Stiles in the World Cup final and also when Manchester United won the 1968 European Cup, is the fifth member of the 1966 England squad to be diagnosed with it. 

A study carried out in Scotland concluded professional footballers are around three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.

Restrictions have been put in place to stop children aged 11 and under heading footballs during training in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Similar rules have been in force in the United States since 2015.

However, there is a growing body of present and former footballers arguing that the age limit should be raised to 16.

Kay Stiles said watching her husband’s condition worsen was incredibly upsetting.

“It just progressed and got worse and worse as the time went on,” she said.

“It was a horrible thing actually. It really bugs me when I see advertising of two old people sitting side by side and saying ‘one can’t remember’.

“It’s worse than that, it’s 100 times worse than that. It’s agitation, it’s fear, it’s stress, it’s all sorts of things that they go through. It’s dreadful.”

Progress too has been made in the senior game.

On Wednesday the sport’s lawmakers IFAB (International Football Association Board) announced they had approved extensive trials with additional permanent substitutions for actual or suspected concussion as of January 2021.

“The IFAB confirmed that it has agreed on the implementation of protocols that will be the basis for the trials,” an IFAB statement read.

“The members agreed that, in the event of an actual or suspected concussion, the player in question should be permanently removed from the match to protect their welfare, but the player’s team should not suffer a numerical disadvantage.”

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