Football 'dementia disclaimers' predicted

Football 'dementia disclaimers' predicted

Footballers may have to sign disclaimers to prevent them suing over dementia and other brain injuries, a former head of the SFA has predicted.

Gordon Smith also repeated his calls for children under the age of 12 to be banned from heading footballs.

It emerged at the weekend that former Celtic captain Billy McNeill has dementia and is unable to speak.

His family have called for more research into possible links between heading and dementia.

Mr Smith, who was chief executive of the Scottish Football Association between 2007 and 2010, played for Manchester City when Mr McNeill was the manager in the 1980s.


He pointed out that footballs are now much lighter than they were in 1950s and 60s, and that children under the age of 12 play seven-a-side games in which there is hardly any heading.

But he called for Scotland to follow the American model by imposing a total ban on heading by any child under the age of 12.

At the weekend, Mr McNeill's wife, Liz, told the Sunday Mail and the Scottish Sun on Sunday about her husband's battle with the degenerative brain disease since being diagnosed seen years ago.

She decided to make his illness public ahead of the 50th anniversary of Mr McNeill becoming the first British captain to lift the European Cup when Celtic defeated Italian club Internazionale in Lisbon in May 1967.

Mrs McNeill said: "I think it's the right time for us to talk about this now. Heading the ball and the possibilities of concussive effects on the brain needs more discussion.

"We don't know if Billy's dementia is linked to his football. More research needs to be done."

Last year, the Football Association in England said it would lead a study into possible links between football and brain diseases.

It followed a campaign by the family of former England, West Brom and Notts County striker, Jeff Astle, who died from brain trauma in 2002.

A coroner described his illness as an "industrial disease", in reference to him heading leather balls during his career.



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