Brain damage found in former footballers is fuelling concerns that frequent knocks from heading the ball or colliding with other players could cause dementia, as Stuart McDill reports.
Damage in the brain of a former professional footballer The question is was it caused by heading the ball Researchers in London and Cardiff say post mortems on six former players found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE - a potential cause of dementia PROFESSOR JOHN HARDY OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON "Your brain is like blancmange in consistency but your blood vessels are just a little bit tougher and so if you do a rapid rotation they act like little cheese wires and do bits of damage around them and cut the nerve fibres and that type of damage is also distinctive for CTE." Thousands of retired America footballers are expected to lodge concussion-related lawsuits with the NFL which could cost the league billions of dollars players wear headgear to minimise the dangers of CTE - which is also common in ex-boxers and has been linked to progressive memory, behavioural and motor impairment. PROFESSOR JOHN HARDY OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON "The idea of boxing is to cause concussion. Footballers definitely try and avoid concussion so it's a very different situation. Of course we're putting the blame on heading in this interview but actually occasionally footballers do get concussed because of banging of heads and we cant actually say it's heading that is the problem it could in fact be the occasional concussions that footballers get," Hardy said. The small study involved post mortems on six men who died with dementia after long careers playing soccer - all were skilled headers of the ball. PROFESSOR JOHN HARDY OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON "I want to emphasise though that the people we've studied, these are people who were professional footballers, who played football probably every day of their lives for 25 to 30 years, probably many hours a day. This is very different from casual, weekend player or a school player. It's just a different order of magnitude of contact." Britain's Football Association said more research is needed into links between the beautiful game and degenerative brain disease