In: Industrial Disease

Football Legend Denis Law Diagnosed with Dementia

With football continually faced with instances of brain injury, yet another sad story has emerged with the news that football legend Denis Law has been diagnosed with mixed dementia. Revealing his diagnosis, Law said that ‘I am at the point where I feel I want to be open about my condition…I have been diagnosed with ‘mixed dementia,’ which is more than one type of dementia, in my case this being Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia…you hope that it won’t happen to you, even make jokes about it while ignoring the early signs because you don’t want it to be true. You get angry, frustrated, confused and then worried.’

Dementia in Football

Since the death of former West Brom striker Jeff Astle in 2002, the realisation that brain injuries in football were leading to early deaths and degenerative diseases has been growing. After his death, it was confirmed that he was the first British footballer known to have died as a result of repeatedly heading a football, and the inquest into his death therefore recorded a verdict of ‘death by industrial disease.’ The death of Nobby Stiles in Ocotber 2020 of prostate cancer and advanced dementia followed the death of Jack Charlton from lymphoma and dementia in the same year. Concerningly, five out of the 11 players who won the World Cup for England in 1966 have all been diagnosed with dementia.

Why is it common in footballers?

So, what it is about playing football professionally that makes you more susceptible to dementia in later life? Commonly, mild concussion that occurs from heading the ball can lead to symptoms that are collectively referred to as ‘post-concussion syndrome.’ The most common symptoms that are reported include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Problems sleeping
  • Psychological symptoms such as depression, irritability, and anxiety
  • Cognitive problems involving memory, concentration, and being able to think clearly

Symptoms are often worse in the first week or two after the injury, but in cases where the brain is subjected to multiple injuries, the accumulative damage can lead to problems later in life, including a greater risk of dementia. Whilst the symptoms may affect anyone with a head injury, research has shown that young males or over 60s, who have been a sportsperson, are particularly vulnerable. Further head injuries may cause a greater impact on the brain, known as ‘Second Impact Syndrome (SIS).’ This can be particularly relevant to those returning too early to a sport, such as football or rugby, after a head injury and may even lead to permanent damage or dementia in some cases.

Read more on our head & brain injury compensation page

What can be done to prevent this condition in footballers?

In an attempt to combat the growing issues that footballers face, governing bodies are attempting to put new rules in place to protect players. The FA have banned the heading of the football in practice for children under the age of 12 and provided updated guidance for up to 18 age groups as of February 2020 following a FIELD study. However, many experts have argued that this is too little, too late.

Get in Touch

With high-profile names mounting, it is worth understanding that these kinds of injuries are not just limited to professional players. If you have been involved in playing football at any level and have been injured due to negligence safety measures, then you may need legal advice to seek possible compensation.

Get in touch today for expert help and advice with your situation.

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