Hurst: cut heading to aid dementia fight

·2-min read

England's 1966 World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst says clubs should cut down the amount of heading they do in training sessions to boost the fight against dementia.

Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the final against Germany in 1966, wants to donate his brain to dementia research.

On Wednesday, the Professional Footballers Association announced a taskforce to look into dementia in the game, with Nobby Stiles, who died last month, the fifth member of the 1966 team to be diagnosed with the disease.

Bobby Charlton also has dementia.

"You could look at some of the games I played in where I hardly headed the ball, but it's the practice," Hurst told the BBC.

Hurst said his club West Ham "had a ball hanging from the ceiling in the gym, where you'd spend half an hour, 45 minutes practising heading a ball swinging from the ceiling."

"We'd play head tennis in the gym and then you get onto the field and you'd practise what we were well-known for at West Ham which was the near-post crosses and the near-post headers.

"The practice of that could be 20 minutes, half an hour," he said.

"So the enormous amount of practice of heading the ball is probably more detrimental to players than in a match."

Nobby Stiles' son John has also backed calls to look at the amount of heading professional players do in training.

He believes the game should not wait for a link between heading and dementia to be established beyond any doubt before helping former footballers who are suffering now.

Former Manchester United and England midfielder Stiles died, aged 78, having suffered from dementia and prostate cancer.

Professor Willie Stewart, whose FIELD study last year found footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than age-matched individuals from the general population, wants to restrict heading in training at all levels in the game, not just among children.

"They should think very carefully about the amount of headers they do in football, particularly in training," John Stiles told the PA news agency.

"But my big problem is that whilst they're waiting for the proof as they have been for years, the players who are suffering are getting very, very little help.

"They shouldn't have to wait until it's proved absolutely, 1,000 per cent, categorical, they should be giving them the help now. There are so many of them and there is enough money in football to take care of them."