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CHRIS SUTTON: Soccer’s fight against dementia is not over yet

More former footballers revealed their diagnoses. And more ex-footballers died.

Nobby Stiles’ family were told that his dementia was caused by going after donating his brain to Dr. Willie Stewart.

The Professional Soccer Players Association established a dementia department and Gordon Taylor cleaned his desk.

Nobby Stiles' family (right) were told his dementia was caused by leaving after donating his brain to Dr. Willie Stewart, while Bobby Charlton (left) was diagnosed last November.

Nobby Stiles’ family (right) were told his dementia was caused by leaving after donating his brain to Dr. Willie Stewart, while Bobby Charlton (left) was diagnosed last November.

The selection committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questioned the football bosses and I gave testimony to the parliamentarians. Sir Alex Ferguson said that football has a duty to act.

Thiago Silva said his head hurt after games. English football introduced heading limits for the first time, we later found that clubs were ignoring them, hiding behind the fact that they are only classified as ‘orientation’.

Terry Butcher called for a heading ban. We discovered that FIFA knew about the potential for brain damage in 1984 when they published an article in their own magazine, but did nothing.

We heard how the FA and the Premier League were alerted to a potential problem as early as 1996, but again, they did nothing.

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) was one of the key voices in coming out and urging football to do more

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) was one of the key voices in coming out and urging football to do more

Sir Alex Ferguson (left) was one of the key voices in coming out and urging football to do more

My dad, Mike, died after a decade of living with dementia; I say “live”, but it was not a life for him. What a promising, pathetic, inspiring, infuriating, terrific and yet downright awful year it has been. Forgive me for writing such a contradictory sentence but it is difficult to summarize how I feel.

I am happy, because the authorities have finally deigned to lift a finger. I am sad, because decades have passed sitting on their hands and there is still much more to do.

What has to happen, you ask? For me, temporary concussion substitutions are a must. The additional substitutions for permanent concussion, which are currently being tested in the Premier League, are silly.

The players hurt their heads and minutes later, they continue playing. The club’s doctors are still waiting to be invited to the field.

They are still conducting an evaluation there and then, in front of thousands of fans. They are still delaying a game that is airing around the world.

Sportsmail expert Chris Sutton pictured with his father Mike before he passed away last year

Sportsmail expert Chris Sutton pictured with his father Mike before he passed away last year

Sportsmail expert Chris Sutton pictured with his father Mike before he passed away last year

Whereas if these potentially shocked players could be temporarily replaced, they would receive a more comprehensive evaluation in private and in a suitable environment. Then, at the end of this 10-minute assessment, they can either come back or stay on the sidelines. It is win-win.

It’s a shame that the International Football Association Board, the rule-makers of the game, haven’t realized that yet and are nowhere near opening their eyes from the looks of it.

Another need is that dementia in soccer, and other relevant sports, be recommended for disability benefit for industrial injuries. In this way, those affected could request help from the Government.

It is good that football is in charge of creating its own fund for the care of dementia throughout the industry. There is no time to waste with that. Families need financial help and they need it now.

The Premier League has been testing permanent concussion suspensions since February.

The Premier League has been testing permanent concussion suspensions since February.

More needs to be done and temporary concussion substitutions are a must – permanent concussion substitutions, which are currently being tested, are silly.

They are not demanding that a stairlift be installed around the spiral staircase of their mansion on Millionaire’s Row. These are normal families in need, because many of them have been alone and on their knees for far too long.

I won’t name the ones who are fighting, but trust me, they are out there and the PFA has known them for some time.

Given that Sportsmail launched its campaign in November 2020, saying ‘enough is enough’ with a powerful back page showing 28 players diagnosed with dementia in black and white, we have seen real pressure on the authorities. They have felt it and are acting.

Perhaps the authorities did so out of fear that the kinds of lawsuits that have cost the NFL more than a billion dollars in compensation will reach these shores. But you hope that current football regimes also realize that it is the right thing to do. The old guard never seemed to understand that, did they?

A campaign year later, we have managed to tick a few boxes, but we won’t stop until they are all ticked.

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