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Gary Lineker among former players demanding help from football authorities in dementia fight

Written by on 24/08/2021

Gary Lineker and Brian Deane are among former football stars calling for financial help for players diagnosed with dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases after their careers come to an end.

It comes after high-profile former footballers Denis Law and Terry McDermott’s dementia diagnoses were publicly confirmed this month.

Sixty former players aged between 30 and 70 are urging football authorities to financially aid ex-players in their support of charity Head for Change – including former England striker and Match of the Day presenter Lineker.

Deane, a former Leeds and Sheffield United forward, has personally witnessed how devastating the condition can be, as his former Doncaster boss Dave Cusack was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

Brian Deane, Sheffield United goal, Premier League opening day
Image: Brian Deane was the scorer of the very first Premier League goal in 1992

The 53-year-old, who was the scorer of the very first Premier League goal in 1992, believes the modern game “sits on the shoulders” of men like Cusack.

He said it has been “tragic” whenever the pair have spoken recently, adding: “Sometimes you come off the phone in tears because he’s in a bad way.

“It is sad to see that a once big, bright imposing figure has now drifted away somewhere. His short-term memory is shot.”

More on Dementia

Deane said that everyone “should be looking inwardly at how we can support the likes of Dave”.

Head for Change has called for the establishment of an ongoing fund to support individuals like Cusack and wants the authorities to act and initiate research focused on maintaining and protecting the brain health of players who have retired.

It also wants players to have a greater level of education on the dangers of sports-related head injuries and how to prevent brain damage from repetitive head injuries during their careers.

The group’s co-founders include former Wales rugby international Alix Popham – who was recently diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

Former Manchester United player says he has been diagnosed with both Alzheimers and Vascular dementia
Image: Former Manchester United player Denis Law has been diagnosed with both Alzheimers and Vascular dementia

Earlier this month, a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of MPs concluded that the football authorities should have taken a stronger and more sustained interest in the issue of brain injuries following the coroner’s verdict on former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle in 2002, which found he died from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to repeated heading of a ball.

The Professional Footballers’ Association said in its submission to the MP’s inquiry earlier this year it had spent £1.82m on support for its members with a neurodegenerative diagnosis.

Jeff Astle celebrates after scoring the winner for West Brom in the 1968 FA Cup final
Image: Jeff Astle celebrates after scoring the winner for West Brom in the 1968 FA Cup final

It said it wanted to see an industry-wide fund set up to fund care home fees, but said it was not financially viable to be the sole source of funding, and called on the Football Association, the Premier League and others to contribute.

The PFA also highlighted it had committed £616,000 into research looking at football and neurodegenerative conditions – including the FIELD Study which it co-funded with the FA.

Recent findings from the study showed that defenders were five times more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases compared to the general population.

 Sky News

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