17:55 16 February 2017
A study of 14 retired footballers found they have suffered from brain conditions due to repeated minor head injuries, which occurred when they head the ball or collide with other players. Of the 14 participants, four had a condition known to cause dementia while six had Alzheimer’s disease.
The study comes 15 years after the death of England striker Jeff Astle. His inquest suggested that he developed dementia as a direct result of heading heavy leather footballs. Due to the result of the investigation, the Football Association has been urged to consider a ban on children under 10 doing headers in training and matches.
Researchers from the University College London have examined the brains of 13 professional footballers and one amateur player following their deaths. Four had been found to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition very common in rugby players and boxers.
Lead author Dr Helen Ling, from UCL's Institute of Neurology, said: 'Our findings of CTE in retired footballers suggest a potential link between playing football and the development of degenerative brain pathologies in later life.'
She added: 'These players had the same pathology as boxers.'
The 'pressing question now', she said, was to determine how widespread the condition was among retired players.
'It is important to note that we only studied a small number of retired footballers with dementia and that we still do not know how common dementia is among footballers,' she said.