LONDON, Oct 22 — Football Association chairman Greg Clarke wants concussion substitutes introduced “as quickly as possible” following a landmark report showing a link between football and dementia.
A Glasgow University study shows former footballers are approximately three-and-a-half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than the general population.
The report, released yesterday, was commissioned by England’s Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and assessed the medical records of 7,676 men who played professional football in Scotland between 1900 and 1976.
Clarke will present the findings of the study to the Fifa Council in Shanghai this week.
The FA chairman said the game needed to understand whether repeated heading of the ball, or a failure to treat concussion properly, were contributory factors in dementia risk.
“One of the things we’re pushing on, and I’ve spoken to Fifa and Uefa about this, is to introduce concussion substitutes as quickly as possible,” he told a committee of British lawmakers.
“If anyone has a head injury you don’t just want to have a doctor looking at them quickly and saying ‘you’re OK’ or ‘you’re not OK’—you can send someone else on to play while that player is assessed to make sure we move away from time pressure on doctors to make really important health decisions.”
Football’s lawmaking body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), will discuss concussion at a meeting of its football and technical advisory panels in Zurich on Wednesday.
Outgoing PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor has been strongly criticised over a lack of action, in particular by the family of former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle, whose 2002 death from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was linked to repeatedly heading heavy leather footballs.
Former England international Chris Sutton, whose father suffers from dementia, accused Taylor of letting players down.
“The confirmation that there is a link between football and dementia brings me no satisfaction. It makes me angry,” Sutton said in a column in the Daily Mail newspaper.
“Angry for people like my dad, Mike, and other former footballers who are dying in the most horrible and humiliating way. Angry for the future generations who will suffer, too, because this study was rolled out 15 years too late.”
Sutton said a study should have been commissioned in 2002, after Astle’s death.
“The PFA, led by Gordon Taylor, had a duty of care to their members,” Sutton said. “They let them down.”
Jeff Astle’s daughter, Dawn, who has been campaigning since her father’s death for football to research into the area, said she was “staggered” to learn of the findings.
“My overall feeling is that I am staggered even though my own research and instinct was always that there was a serious problem,” she said. — AFP