Scientists Call For More Research Into Links Between Headers, Dementia
Scientists investigating links between heading footballs and dementia "say there is an urgent need for more research," according to the BBC. It follows the screening of a BBC documentary, "Dementia, football and me," featuring former England int'l Alan Shearer. Last year, scientists at Stirling University "found just one session of heading a ball could lead to an immediate decrease in brain function." They said that "more work was needed to assess long-term effects." The documentary, which aired on Sunday, "heard from current and retired professional footballers, the relatives of former players diagnosed with dementia," the FA, the Professional Footballers' Association and scientists in sports medicine. The documentary included footage of Shearer "undergoing tests in a lab at Stirling, where academics have, for the first time, found direct evidence of brain changes immediately after heading a ball" (BBC, 11/13). The BBC also reported PFA CEO Gordon Taylor said that he "does not know how many of its 50,000 members have dementia." The PFA and the FA "have pledged to fund research and support former players with dementia." When the link was made in the U.S. between brain trauma from "repeated blows to the head" and chronic traumatic encephalopathy in retired NFL players, the NFL "quickly set up a compensation fund" worth $750M. Taylor acknowledged that "football needs to do the same sort of investigation into the damage caused by heading," and said that plans are "already in place." He said that the PFA "is looking to build a database of members with dementia," and told Shearer, "It has been put to me that maybe clubs are very wary because there may be compensation" (BBC, 11/12).
'ABOUT TIME': The London INDEPENDENT reported Shearer spoke to families of footballers affected by dementia and underwent various studies, "while also looking at the brains of people" who have suffered CTE from "all walks of life." Speaking in the documentary, Shearer said, "Never ever did I think that heading a football could be dangerous for me." He said, "There's enough money around nowadays in football, just not enough of it has been given to research. It's about time we had more definitive answers" (INDEPENDENT, 11/13).
'MATTER OF URGENCY': In London, Ian Herbert reported FA Chair Greg Clarke will reportedly be asked by a parliamentary watchdog to "reveal when long-awaited research" into possible links between dementia and the sport will be delivered, amid "mounting frustration from ex-players' families who have waited 15 years for answers." Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee Chair Damian Collins said that he will write to Clarke "asking if he can set out the timetable for when this will be delivered." Collins said that the FA "should commission the promised study as a matter of urgency." U.K. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch "is also likely to be asked for her opinion on the dementia issue when she appears before the committee on Tuesday" (DAILY MAIL, 11/12).