London (AFP) – Nine former professional footballers including England internationals Peter Reid and Viv Anderson have requested British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden ask parliament to review the links “between neurological diseases and heading the ball.”
Their letter — British lawmakers have penned a similar one to a Parliamentary Committee — is the latest action taken by former footballers in their efforts to prevent present day players and young children developing dementia.
It comes in the wake of the family of the late 1966 World Cup winning midfielder Nobby Stiles being told this week by experts his brain was severely damaged by repeatedly heading the ball.
Stiles died in October aged 78, becoming the most recent member of the England team to die of dementia-related causes.
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 but did not say there was a “definitive link”.
However, whilst Reid, Anderson and the others hailed the landmark report they felt that a review should be carried out into the possible links.
They called on 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”.
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 has been a growing swelling of opinion amongst former footballers that the limit should be raised to 16.
The letter to Dowden — which was organised by former Chelsea and Charlton player Mickey Ambrose — says extra measures should be implemented.
“Last year saw the publication of a landmark study that sought to identify whether there was any link between heading the ball and an increase in the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease,” wrote the players.
“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.”
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