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15 years after promising research, FA announces study into football's links to brain disorders

The governing body first committed to exploring the topic in 2002.

West Brom's Jeff Astle pictured in 1969.
West Brom's Jeff Astle pictured in 1969.
Image: PA Photos

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION has announced that their long-awaited extensive research into the links between football and degenerative brain disorders will begin in January 2018.

The study had been promised ever since the death of former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle in 2002.

The 59-year-old had been diagnosed with early onset dementia and battled various symptoms, including mood disorders, for four years before passing away.

At the subsequent inquest into his death, the coroner judged that Astle died from ‘industrial disease’ and that the repeated heading of heavy footballs had contributed to him developing the brain disorder.

It was a crucial moment for football. Both the domestic governing body in England and the PFA (Professional Footballers Association) committed to finding out more. But nothing ever came of the promises.

In 2014, Astle’s brain was studied by a Glasgow-based neuropathologist, Dr. Willie Stewart, who diagnosed chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE – a disorder consistent with repeated head trauma and the same one that Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered was so prevalent in former NFL players and which resulted in a billion-dollar lawsuit in the United States.

Now, 15 years after Astle’s death, the FA have, once again, pledged to invest in a dedicated study of the possible links and have tapped up Stewart to lead the project.

It will be titled ‘Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk’.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

The All-Ireland winner who retired at 25 after eight concussions – ‘It’s not about me, it’s about the issue’

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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