UEFA to investigate Alzheimer's link to heading footballs

UK investigation. The Football Association (FA) has asked Fifa to investigate if there is a correlation between the brain damage suffered by some former players and the constant heading of a ball during their careers. Martin Peters, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson, three of the squad that won the 1966 World Cup with England, suffer from Alzheimer’s, their families confirmed to the Daily Mirror. Their cases have opened a debate in the UK and the FA’s chief medical officer, Ian Beasley, has requested that Fifa make a statement on the subject.

UEFA evidence. UEFA has started an investigation in which one thousand children between the ages eight and 16 will be monitored to determine if heading a football could be harmful to their health. The project is being led by Professor Tim Meyer, the Germany team doctor and a member of Uefa’s medical committee. A report by The Telegraph stated that a University of Stirling study had established links between damage caused to the brain and the continuous impact of a football with the head.

Boxing and Rugby: Fifa and Uefa are both concerned by the increasing number of head injuries occurring in boxing and rugby and the subsequent effects they cause. MLS has invested $100 million in a medical programme to determine whether heading a football can have detrimental health effects. The English Rugby Football Union has a similar study underway to measure the health effects of concussions among rugby players, Inside World Football reported.

Clinical trials: Alarm bells started to sound after the publication of a report in scientific journal Acta Neuropathologica, which analysed 14 deceased players whose autopsies showed that in a percentage far above the average they had all suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy. “The results of our investigation prove that there is a connection between playing football professionally and suffering chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” the study leader, Helen Ling of the Neurological Institute of London, told AFP.

Fifa rejection: In the light of all these case studies and despite the Uefa investigation, Fifa have claimed that “there is no proof or evidence that the impact of a ball with the head can have detrimental effects. The results of the tests are not conclusive,” the world governing body said in a statement. Regardless of this, Fifa confirmed that it has been aware of the issue for several years and that its president, Gianni Infantino, will not spare any resources in pursuing a definitive answer.