Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
100 Parliament Street
Tuesday 22nd December 2020
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing to you as former professional footballers, who have played at all levels of the game, including representing our country.
Last year saw the publication of a landmark study (the FIELD study) that sought to identify whether there was any link between heading the ball and an increase in the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease.
While the report said there was no definitive link, it confirmed that players were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of dementia and other neurological diseases than the general population.
Following the study’s publication, the FA in parallel with UEFA’s medical committee published new guidelines that apply to all young players.
Measures included a complete prohibition of header training for children below the age of 12 and a graduated process to headers there-after.
We welcome these measures but believe they do not go far enough.
A recent article in the Daily Mail reported on new research that showed just 20 headers with a modern ball are enough to immediately — and significantly — impact brain function.
It suggests that teams should limit the number of headers in any training session to a maximum of 20, with a minimum of 48 hours between each session.
As another study from researchers from University College London (UCL) and Cardiff University, published in 2017 put it, the brains of the six players they looked were similar to those of ex-boxers with changes that are often associated with repeated brain injury.
The national newspaper also published a 7-point charter, calling for more research into this area, recognition of dementia as an industrial disease and better support for former players who have been diagnosed with dementia and their families.
Given football continues to be the UK’s most popular team sport with some 1.9 million participants in England alone, we welcome and support this important public safety campaign and urge the Government to throw its’ weight behind it.
Therefore, we would urge you to publicly back these sensible measures and to ask Parliament to review the links between neurological diseases and heading the ball and whether the current guidelines are adequate to protect players at every level of the game.
Mickey Ambrose – ex Chelsea and Charlton
Clive Wilson – ex Chelsea & QPR
Dean Wilkins – ex Chelsea & Millwall
Vinny Samways – ex Spurs
Mark McCammon – ex Charlton
Phil Brown – ex Hull City Manager
Peter Reid – ex Everton and England
Viv Anderson – ex Nottingham Forest and England
Darren Moore – Doncaster Rovers Manager and ex West Bromwich Albion
C.C. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, and members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
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