Evans offers help as scientists link heading footballs to dementia

Steve Evans - picture by Dan Westwell.
Steve Evans - picture by Dan Westwell.

Mansfield Town boss Steve Evans has said the club will help in any way they can with current medical investigations into the long-term effects of heading a football.

Evans is saddened by the plight of former Stags and Chesterfield star Ernie Moss, who is suffering from from Pick’s Disease, a type of frontotemporal dementia caused by the destruction of nerve cells in the brain, which affects his memory and communication.

Heading footballs was also blamed for the demise and eventual death of former Notts County and England star Jeff Astle, aged just 59, with early onset dementia.

“I would think it’s less now than it was many years ago when the balls were really sodden and heavy,” said Evans.

“I know a lot of the players from previous generations always spoke about how heavy it was.

“When you see people like Ernie Moss – and I’ve come up against Ernie as a manager of course, he is a really intelligent man and a good man – a great football man.

“Let people investigate it and see where it goes. I don’t think in my generation or my lifetime it’s going to change the way that football gets played.

“But there has to be enough money in football that, if you’ve played this sport professionally for your living, there has to be some address.

“I have seen Ernie’s daughter say some lovely words, not only about her dad, but what should come from it. And I do agree with her.

“We’ll make sure the medical people look at it fully – that’s what they should do.”

He added: “The PFA do a wonderful job, but we can all sit there and be critical and negative and say do they do enough? Well they only get so much funding and with the money in football there should be provisions made.

“If we can help in any way here and people want to come in and do testing, our doors are open. We want to play a part, especially when you see what Ernie Moss means to people locally here in football. We are prepared to help his family in any way we can.”

A suggestion is that youngsters aged U11 may be banned from heading footballs in the future.

But Evans said: “When you go and watch the U10/U11 academy games, they keep the ball on the floor.

“That’s how they are taught these days, so I don’t think it’s going to change with only the odd header. I don’t think it’s a major problem.

“Heading is an art, it’s a key part of football. There are probably as many headed goals as strikes on goal.

“But it is essential we are making sure we’re not giving kids any issues as they grow up.”

A team from University College London has just studied 13 professional footballers and one amateur player, examining the brains of six after their deaths.

They found four had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can cause dementia and has also been found in boxers and rugby players.