Former England striker Chris Sutton has accused Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor of failing his members and their families over the issue of dementia.
Sutton, who said Taylor should apologise to those affected, spoke out after a new study said former footballers are approximately three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease than the general population.
“If Gordon Taylor had anything about him he would apologise to all his union members and their families who he has failed… his own members dying in the most horrible and humiliating way… he failed my dad and hundreds more,” Sutton said on Twitter.
The report, released on Monday and commissioned by the Football Association and the PFA, assessed the medical records of 7,676 men who played professional football in Scotland and were born between 1900 and 1976.
Their records were matched against more than 23,000 individuals from the general population.
The findings report that the “risk ranged from a five-fold increase in Alzheimer’s disease, through an approximately four-fold increase in motor neurone disease, to a two-fold (increase in) Parkinson’s disease in former professional footballers compared to population controls”.
Although footballers had higher risk of death from neurodegenerative disease, they were less likely to die of other common diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers, including lung cancer.
In a Daily Telegraph interview in 2017, Sutton said that his father Mike, a former Norwich player and then aged 72, had been suffering from dementia for the past six years.
Sutton said he first became aware of the potential link between football and dementia when he heard about the plight of Duncan Forbes, the former Norwich player.
Former England striker Gary Lineker said on Twitter he was “not particularly surprised” by the research, but said it would be “interesting to find out if the modern lighter ball and the shift away from long ball football improves the statistics”.
Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, urged people not to be put off “a Saturday kick about in the park” by the study’s findings.
He said: “There have been changes in the game of football over the decades, for instance heavy leather balls used in the past have been replaced with the lighter latex and plastic ones used today, and the risks for the modern-day professional footballer may be different.
“So if you love kicking a ball around with your friends and family after work, don’t feel put off – what’s good for the heart is good for the head.”