Jump to content
The Education Forum

Motor Neurone Disease and Professional Football


John Simkin
 Share

Recommended Posts

In the 1970s it was finally accepted that playing football could result in brain damage. The Encyclopedia of British Football (2002) pointed out: "On wet days the ball grew increasingly heavy as the leather soaked up large amounts of liquid. This, together with the lacing that protected the valve of the bladder, made heading the ball not only unpleasant but also painful and dangerous." A large number of football players in the past have suffered long-term brain damage because of repeated heading of a heavy, wet ball. Several top footballers in the 1950s and 1960s have suffered developing dementia in later life.

Research carried out by D. R. Williams in 2002 concluded that repetitive mild head trauma over the course of an amateur and professional footballer's career may increase an individual's risk of developing dementia in later life. Former players who have suffered from this disease include Joe Mercer, Bob Paisley, Stan Cullis, Bill Shorthouse, Peter Broadbent and Malcolm Allison. In 2002 a coroner said it was likely that the death of former West Bromwich Albion centre-forward, Jeff Astle, had been caused by "repeated small traumas to the brain".

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Fhealth.htm

In the 1970s leather footballs were coated with a special polyurethane preparation, which eliminated water absorption during games. Footballs used today combine a latex bladder with an outer casing made from synthetic leather. It was believed that this would eliminate brain damage in football players. However, recent research shows this is not the case.

Recently there has been concerns about the possible connections between motor neurone disease (MND) and professional football. In 2007 Ammar Al-Chalabi, a neurologist at King's College Hospital called on the Football Association to investigate whether the sport contributed to MND. It was pointed out that Don Revie, Jimmy Johnstone and Rob Hindmarch had all died of the disease.

Several top Italian footballers have also suffered from MND. This includes Gianluca Signorini, Adriano Lombardi and Stefano Borgonovo. Adriano Chio, a neurologist and Italy's foremost expert on the condition, has shown that professional footballers in the country are seven times more likely to develop MND than others. He discovered that 41 players had suffered from MND since 1973.

According to one theory, the incurable disease might be linked to pesticides used on football pitches. Others suggest it could be a result of performance enhancing drugs, the treatment used to combat physical injuries or repeatedly heading the ball.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Fballs.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the 1970s it was finally accepted that playing football could result in brain damage. The Encyclopedia of British Football (2002) pointed out: "On wet days the ball grew increasingly heavy as the leather soaked up large amounts of liquid. This, together with the lacing that protected the valve of the bladder, made heading the ball not only unpleasant but also painful and dangerous." A large number of football players in the past have suffered long-term brain damage because of repeated heading of a heavy, wet ball. Several top footballers in the 1950s and 1960s have suffered developing dementia in later life.

Research carried out by D. R. Williams in 2002 concluded that repetitive mild head trauma over the course of an amateur and professional footballer's career may increase an individual's risk of developing dementia in later life. Former players who have suffered from this disease include Joe Mercer, Bob Paisley, Stan Cullis, Bill Shorthouse, Peter Broadbent and Malcolm Allison. In 2002 a coroner said it was likely that the death of former West Bromwich Albion centre-forward, Jeff Astle, had been caused by "repeated small traumas to the brain".

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Fhealth.htm

In the 1970s leather footballs were coated with a special polyurethane preparation, which eliminated water absorption during games. Footballs used today combine a latex bladder with an outer casing made from synthetic leather. It was believed that this would eliminate brain damage in football players. However, recent research shows this is not the case.

Recently there has been concerns about the possible connections between motor neurone disease (MND) and professional football. In 2007 Ammar Al-Chalabi, a neurologist at King's College Hospital called on the Football Association to investigate whether the sport contributed to MND. It was pointed out that Don Revie, Jimmy Johnstone and Rob Hindmarch had all died of the disease.

Several top Italian footballers have also suffered from MND. This includes Gianluca Signorini, Adriano Lombardi and Stefano Borgonovo. Adriano Chio, a neurologist and Italy's foremost expert on the condition, has shown that professional footballers in the country are seven times more likely to develop MND than others. He discovered that 41 players had suffered from MND since 1973.

According to one theory, the incurable disease might be linked to pesticides used on football pitches. Others suggest it could be a result of performance enhancing drugs, the treatment used to combat physical injuries or repeatedly heading the ball.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Fballs.htm

That is indeed frightening. I was unaware of the spike in cases in Italian and English footballers.

This dreaded affliction has for many years been noticeable in Guam, the Kii Peninsula in Japan and tribes in New Guinea. I have read that the incidence of all forms of MND on Guam is 15 times higher than that of the rest of the world. The use of cycad seed to make flour in Guam was identified as a possible cause. Bats also eat the seed and the cycad is stored in high concentrations in bat flesh, which was a traditional food of Guam. The bat cannery is now closed, I believe.

If you google MND and Guam, many pages appear detailing this strange phenomenon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This dreaded affliction has for many years been noticeable in Guam, the Kii Peninsula in Japan and tribes in New Guinea. I have read that the incidence of all forms of MND on Guam is 15 times higher than that of the rest of the world. The use of cycad seed to make flour in Guam was identified as a possible cause. Bats also eat the seed and the cycad is stored in high concentrations in bat flesh, which was a traditional food of Guam. The bat cannery is now closed, I believe.

I did not know that. I will pass this information onto Dr. Ammar Al-Chalabi who is carrying out research into the subject. When I was researching the possible connections between MND and football I came across the following two articles:

Newbury Today (19th March, 2007)

A study of three local footballers, who all developed the same rare neuro-degenerative disease, has prompted calls for more funding for research into the link.

The three men, carpet fitter George Pearce of Wash Common, electrician Graham Hodgetts (pictured with trophy) of Thatcham and builder and carpenter Sam Brown of Kingsclere all played amateur football in the same league on the same football pitches for some 15 - 20 years each, and in later life developed MND (Motor Neurone Disease).

It was through the condition - which currently has no known cure - that they were reunited at the Charles Clore Macmillan Day Therapy Unit in Newbury.

George Pearce and Graham Hodgetts died in the same weekend in the summer of 2005.

The study, conducted by Kings College London, was carried out after researcher Paul Wicks of Wokingham attended a meeting of the West Berkshire MND Association.

The Daily Mail (17th April, 2007)

"Many people who get MND are not couch potatoes," says Dr Paul Wicks, a neuropsychologist from King's College, London.

"Genes do play a part in determining how well someone is going to do at sport so this does throw open the question: "Does that same genetic make-up make people more prone to motor neurone disease?""

Dr Wicks found out about the cases of the three amateur British footballers Sam Brown, Graham Hodgetts and George Pearce after being approached by one of the men's wives at a local talk about the disease.

She told him the three men played football for local teams in neurone the Newbury and Basingstoke leagues twice a week from when they were teenagers until they were in their 40s.

The three men were fit until they were diagnosed with a form of the disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in their early 50s.

Sam, 63, is now in a wheelchair and unable to talk while Graham and George died on the same weekend in July 2005.

Dr Wicks and Dr Ammar Al-Chalabi, senior lecturer in neurology at King's College, London, had interviewed the men and have written a paper that has just been published in the medical journal Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

They are calling for the Football Association to assist by giving them access to former professional players' medical history.

"What makes the case of these three men so unusual is that MND neurone disease? is not a common disease," says Dr Al-Chalabi.

"It normally only affects two out of every 10,000 people in the UK. Yet these men played on the same pitch together.

"It could be just a fluke but the odds are quite long on that and my gut reaction is that there is something unusual about them.

"Whether the connection is football we cannot say as they had many things in common and all lived close to each other." Several theories have been put forward to explain why the incidence among footballers and other sportsmen is so high.

"The first is that being sporty means you have a certain type of gene that make you more likely to develop MND," says Dr Al- Chalabi. "The second is related to pesticides on the football pitch or the chemicals used to paint the white lines.

"It might be that when a player gashes his leg and careers across a line or bashes into a ball, then he may at the same time get an injection of chemicals and pesticides into his bloodstream which somehow triggers MND.

"The third theory is that injuries that commonly occur on pitch, or the trauma caused by repeatedly heading the ball, is to blame.

"However this is less plausible as motor neurone disease affects all the nerves in the body not just those localised to the head.

"The final theory is that there are factors related to a footballer's lifestyle, such as smoking and drinking." MND is caused by the death of motor nerves, the nerves that connect the brain and muscles to prompt movement.

From the moment a baby is born these nerves start to die off at a rate of a million a day without ill effect. However, in someone with MND the nerves die off much more quickly which leads to the inability to walk, talk or swallow.

The mind, though, is unaffected and sufferers become locked in a useless body. Eventually the motor nerves that help push air in and out of the lungs become affected, which is what often leads to death.

Diagnosis can take up to a year as there is no conclusive test for MND and confirmation of the disease is made by the disease's progress.

The average life expectancy for someone with MND is five years.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John / Mark:

What about rugby players? What about boxers? I feel sure that these people must also suffer the effects of repeated cranial concussion.

Evan, I don't claim to be an expert but my guess is that it isn't related to getting knocked on the head. I haven't heard of many boxers contracting MND, although Ali's severe Parkinson's disease is almost certainly related to the welter of blows he took late in his career, and I think Parkinson's is related to MND. As far as I know, the only Rugby League player who has contracted MND was Scott Gale, the ex-Balmain pivot.

The spike of MND in the soccer players was caused by something else, imo, but I don't know what it was.

It's the worst of any disease imaginable. I would never consider enduring it. Luckily it's rare. The last figure I read was that it strikes 6-7 people per 100,000. About 15,000 to one. I would hate those odds to shorten.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The spike of MND in the soccer players was caused by something else, imo, but I don't know what it was.

big wet heavy leather balls to you Mr Stapleton :blink:

In the 1970s leather footballs were coated with a special polyurethane preparation, which eliminated water absorption during games. That is why the cases of MND in football who played with the new balls is causing so much concern.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The spike of MND in the soccer players was caused by something else, imo, but I don't know what it was.

big wet heavy leather balls to you Mr Stapleton :blink:

In the 1970s leather footballs were coated with a special polyurethane preparation, which eliminated water absorption during games. That is why the cases of MND in football who played with the new balls is causing so much concern.

Being leather they were a dammed sight heavier than the balls used today - is there a correlation between disease incidence and position played?

I would imagine that players who regularly headed one of those things experienced a trauma not dissimilar to be being punched on the head.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The spike of MND in the soccer players was caused by something else, imo, but I don't know what it was.

big wet heavy leather balls to you Mr Stapleton :lol:

In the 1970s leather footballs were coated with a special polyurethane preparation, which eliminated water absorption during games. That is why the cases of MND in football who played with the new balls is causing so much concern.

Being leather they were a dammed sight heavier than the balls used today - is there a correlation between disease incidence and position played?

I would imagine that players who regularly headed one of those things experienced a trauma not dissimilar to be being punched on the head.

What about cases where there's been no head trauma? Not everyone who contracts MND is a soccer player. How does it explain the spike in Guam?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...