In recent days the link between dementia and football has once again been hit home with two football stars with strong links to Huddersfield Town confirming they have the disease.
Former Town and Manchester United legend Denis Law’s announcement has been quickly followed by former Terriers assistant manager Terry McDermott.
Law played over 80 times for the Leeds Road club in a four-year period between 1956 and 1960. Signing for Town as a 15-year-old he eventually left for Manchester City for a fee of £55,000. He went on to win the First Division three times, the FA Cup and European Cup in a Manchester United shirt.
Law issued a statement via the Red Devils website and said: “I am at the point where I feel I want to be open about my condition. I have been diagnosed with ‘mixed dementia’, which is more than one type of dementia, in my case, this being Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
“It is an incredibly challenging and problematic disease and I have witnessed many friends go through this. You get angry, frustrated, confused and then worried, worried for your family, as they will be the ones dealing with it.
“However, the time has come to tackle this head on, excuse the pun. I recognise how my brain is deteriorating and how my memory evades me when I don’t want it to and how this causes me distress in situations that are beyond my control. I do understand what is happening and that is why I want to address my situation now.”
Meanwhile McDermott’s connection to the Terriers is more recent. He was made Lee Clark’s assistant in December 2008. After two failed play-off attempts in League 1, Clark was sacked in February 2012 and McDermott also left the club.
The 69-year-old, who made 329 appearances and scored 81 goals for Liverpool between 1974 and 1982, announced via the club’s website that he is in the early stages of Lewy Body dementia following hospital tests.
He said: “I’ve got to get on with it and I will. It’s the way I’ve been brought up. Nothing has come to me easily. I’m not frightened of taking it on and also, as we’ve seen, there are a lot of former players in a worse state than me.”
Town fans have seen some of their greatest players struggling with the illness, notably Frank Worthington and Ray Wilson, who have both now passed away.
Steve Smith, another former Town player, coach and manager, has also been diagnosed with dementia. Smith, 75, had a 25-year history with the club playing for them between 1964 and 1977. He stayed around the club until 1987 and even had a 10-month stint as manager.
According to research on dementia by the University of Glasgow, ex-footballers are 3.5 times more likely to die from the illness than the general population.
In a survey produced earlier this year by The Drake Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, concluded out of 2,000 amateur footballers, two thirds are afraid that heading the ball may be having a detrimental impact on their health.
Some 70% of people would like guidelines brought in for less heading in training and 48% want less heading in matches.
Earlier this year the Premier League and FA announced it would be putting together a committee to make England the first country to limit heading in professional training.