Southgate opens up on dementia concerns after history of headers



The Three Lions boss believes more research is needed to fully determine the links between football and the illness

England manager Gareth Southgate has admitted he does have concerns about the prospect of suffering from dementia later in life as a result of football. 

Southgate, a former centre-back who played for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough across an 18-year career, had a tendency to head the ball – a practice directly linked to health concerns. 

Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton was diagnosed with dementia earlier this month, with his former team-mate Nobby Stiles passing away from the same illness just days prior. 

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A 2019 study funded by the Football Association found that former players are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from dementia than non-players in the same age range – research that has Southgate worried considering his own playing career. 

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“Of course at my age, having headed a lot of footballs, I do have concerns,” Southgate said on Wednesday. 

“But I also recognised that whenever I took the field I was taking that risk of injury, short or long term and I knew that, and I would always have wanted to have the career and the opportunity to play, even if it meant longer-term that there might be physical issues for myself or health issues.

“Most athletes would go that way, I think. That’s not to undermine the situation by the way.

“In terms of the link, there is research going on. That’s a little bit inconclusive at the moment, which is a bit frustrating for everybody because we’d love to have a clear solution.

“And so of course it’s a concern for everybody and we have to keep supporting that research. Part of the issue with dementia is age and one of the positives of being involved in sport is that people tend to live longer, they’re healthier, they live longer.

“And so there’s a possibility that that could be part of the link with the dementia as well.

“Unfortunately we don’t have all the answers we’d like at the moment. I know some of that work is going on in the background.

“But yes, do I have concerns? Of course I do. I’ve had people in my own family who’ve suffered with dementia and it’s a terrible, terrible illness.”



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