FootballManchester United

Head Case?

Son of United icon says headers caused his father’s death


 Month’s after the death of Manchester United midfielder Nobby Stiles his son is speaking out.

John Stiles says he has “no doubt” heading balls played a big factor in his dad’s advanced dementia.

The man known as the “Toothless Tiger” died in October at the age of 78.

He’s the fifth player on England’s World Cup-winning team of 1966 to suffer from this condition.

John says it’s “blatantly obvious” to him how his dad got dementia.

“I think in my dad’s career at United he probably headed a ball between 70,000 and 100,000 times. Every time the ball is hitting the head, the brain is hitting the front of the skull,” he says.

John was a former player as well with Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers.

A post-mortem found his dad’s brain was affected by dementia believed to be caused by repeated blows.

John says he felt vindicated by this result which backed his thoughts all along.

After his death, they found Nobby’s brain had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a form of degenerative disease dementia.

Dr. Willie Stewart, a neuropathologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow was one of the people examining Nobby’s brain after his death.

“The one thing that unites all these different cases is this exposure to brain injury – we don’t see it in people with dementia who haven’t had a very severe brain injury,” says Stewart.

Stewart adds that Nobby’s case is consistent with what he’s seen in other people with CTE.

However, he admits it’s hard to know for sure if heading balls is the sole reason for Nobby’s declining health.

United’s defensive midfielder also had prostate cancer when he died.

Getting A Head of the Curve

 In the past, John Stiles has been very vocal about heading in the game asking football to “address the scandal”.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) says they’re starting a “process of consultation” in three different studies regarding this issue.

The medical adviser for the Premier League Dr. Mark Gillett will chair a discussion on Tuesday with experts on whether headers should be restricted.

Members of the Football Association (FA) along with the English Football League and the PFA will all be present for the talks.

Last year the FA said its research taskforce was looking into “possible changes” to heading coaching and training at all levels.

They’ve already made changes to heading in training at younger ages.

Back in February the FA banned heading in training for all kids 11 and under in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. (JSL).

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