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Footballers heading for brain injuries

Medical experts have warned that frequently heading a football can damage the brain.

Heading is believed to have killed England and West Bromwich Albion footballer Jeff Astle. He scored 137 goals in 292 league appearances for West Bromwich Albion and is recognised as one of the club’s greatest players. He died at the age of 59 in 2002 after developing cognitive problems. An inquest into his death revealed that he died from brain trauma caused by heading heavy leather footballs.

The Football Association promised a study into the effects of heading on the brain. However, no such research has yet been published. The Astle family have subsequently renewed their calls for a study to be carried out via their “Justice for Jeff” campaign. This has prompted other families of ex-footballers to voice their concerns.

Amongst those concerned is physiotherapist, Andrew MacLeod, whose father Ally managed Scotland at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. He believes that his dad developed Alzheimer’s after repeatedly heading a ball during a 16-year playing career with teams including Hibernian and Blackburn Rovers. He died in 2004, aged 72, after suffering with the disease for almost 10 years.

In addition, Duncan Forbes, 72, who played more than 500 games for Norwich City and Colchester in a 16-year career starting in 1961, was admitted to a dementia care home in October 2013. His wife, Janette, believes his condition, which started when he was 64, was caused by heading footballs.

Furthermore, Chris Turner, 62, who played for Peterborough United in the 1970s and later went on to manage the team, was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia in 2006. His wife, Lynne, believes years of heading heavy footballs caused his condition, as there is no history of dementia in his family.

Although the balls used to play football today are much lighter than those used in the 1960s and 70s, they can still pack a punch. Footballs can travel at speeds as high as 34 miles per hour during recreational play and more than double that during professional play.

Research carried out in the US in 2011 by Dr Michael Lipton of Montefiore Medical Center, the university hospital for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, suggested that heading a ball more than 1,000 times a year could cause traumatic brain injury. At the time, Dr Lipton said that heading a football is not an impact of a magnitude that will lacerate nerve fibres in the brain, but repetitive heading could set off a cascade of responses that can lead to degeneration of brain cells.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a sporting accident which has resulted in a serious injury please do not hesitate to discuss your potential claim in confidence with one of our specialist personal injury solicitors free on 020 7288 4800.

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