Dementia in soccer and other sports is still years away from being recognized as an industrial disease.
Sportsmail has seen a letter from the Industrial Injury Advisory Council (IIAC) seeking to manage expectations. He explains that the IIAC is aware of “several potentially important ongoing studies that may not produce results for several years.”
He also cautions that even after the IIAC recommended that the Dupuytren Contracture, known as a ‘miner’s claw,’ be added to the list of prescribed diseases in 2014, it took until the end of 2019 for the regulations to go into effect. The letter goes on to list several other reasons why there will be a delay. They include prioritizing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with two issues that are ‘taking up most of the Council’s time.’
Dementia in soccer and other sports is years away from being recognized as an industrial disease
It also warns that there are complications when it comes to a very widespread disease among the general population, and that the resources in the IIAC are ‘scarce’.
This comes nearly two decades after Jeff Astle, the former West Bromwich Albion and England striker, had his death in 2002 at the age of 59 as a result of his career. Several high-profile former stars, such as Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, have been diagnosed with dementia in recent years.
“As if not enough time had passed,” said Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton. ‘It is sad news. Former miners can claim government help for knee osteoarthritis because the nature of their work left them damaged later in life. I think there is enough evidence to say that footballers were also hurt by their work. ”
With initial support from the PFA and the Jeff Astle Foundation, the Head for Change brain health charity, led by Dr. Judith Gates, has been in regular contact with the IIAC.
Formal recognition of brain diseases would allow former players to claim a work injury disability benefit, which can be worth up to £ 180 per week. The IIAC recently agreed to expand its research to include rugby, boxing, and horse racing.
For neurodegenerative disease in sport to be overcome, the IIAC says there must be a “relative risk of more than two.” In other words, the risk of contracting the disease must be at least double for those in that workplace, compared to the general population.
A letter from the Industrial Injury Advisory Council has listed several reasons why there will be a delay in formal recognition of the disease as industry-related.
Dr. Gates believes that they have provided the IIAC with research that more than meets this criteria. Dr. Willie Stewart’s 2019 study found that former footballers are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population. It is argued that this is a test of compliance with the IIAC threshold, because the “relative risk” is 3.5. But the IIAC maintains that more investigation is required.
In response, Dr. Gates offered the IIAC access to an extensive archive, compiled by Stephen Casper, a historian of medicine at Clarkson University in New York. Casper also offered to help the IIAC review its database.
Dr. Gates reminded the IIAC that while they waited, former footballers were dying and families were struggling under financial pressure to care for their loved ones. However, in the letter seen by Sportsmail, the IIAC said they “do not have the resources” to review that pile of potential evidence “unless, of course, the archive can be searched.”
Casper says he respects the challenge facing the IIAC, telling Sportsmail: ‘As a historian of neurology studying this, I hope people will keep in mind that what passes for excellent evidence in medicine changes with each generation. .
Formally recognizing brain disease would allow former players to claim injury benefits
“No physician in the 1950s or 1960s could know what our standards of evidence would be, just as we cannot anticipate what people in the future will do with our efforts.”
The IIAC letter adds: ‘The Council is aware that other studies being conducted in this field will be reported soon, for example some of those funded through the Drake Foundation. This, accompanied by a detailed bibliographic search, will help to substantiate your research ”.
The Drake Foundation announced its HEADING study in 2018, which looks at the link between heading the ball or concussions and long-term cognitive function. Three years later, their website says they are still looking for participants.
The head of that study is Professor Neil Pearce, who has also chaired all the meetings of the IIAC Research Working Group since neurodegenerative diseases in sport were first discussed in March 2020. The minutes of those meetings They show a desire for more research.
Sportsmail expert Chris Sutton, whose father Mike (left) passed away last year with dementia, has expressed frustration at the news of this setback.
It is the function of the IIAC to make recommendations for additions to the list of prescribed diseases. Once this happens, the Department of Work and Pensions must evaluate the case.
While it will take years for brain damage in sport to be recognized as an industrial disease, former England captain Dave Watson is fighting an individual claim.
His family learned Thursday that they had succeeded in arguing that 10 separate head injuries Watson suffered in the 1970s and 1980s should be considered “industrial accidents.”