Family of Chesterfield FC legend Ernie Moss 'not surprised' as landmark study finds link between football and dementia

The Moss family has always believed Ernie's dementia was a result of him heading old heavy leather footballs during his career. Ernie is pictured with his wife Jenny and daughters Nikki and Sarah at the unveiling of Ernie Moss Way in 2017.
The Moss family has always believed Ernie's dementia was a result of him heading old heavy leather footballs during his career. Ernie is pictured with his wife Jenny and daughters Nikki and Sarah at the unveiling of Ernie Moss Way in 2017.

The family of Chesterfield FC legend Ernie Moss say 'it is not a surprise' that new research has found a link between former professional footballers and dementia.

A new study, funded by the Professional Footballers' Association Charity and Football Association, has found that former professional footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die of dementia than people of the same age range in the general population.

Ernie has a road near the Proact named after him. He is Chesterfield FC's record goalscorer.

Ernie has a road near the Proact named after him. He is Chesterfield FC's record goalscorer.

Moss, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Saturday, is the Spireites' record goalscorer with 191 goals over three spells at the club.

The striker, who was renowned for being a good header of a ball, has a rare form of dementia called Pick's Disease.

His loving family has always believed his dementia was caused by him heading old heavy leather footballs that were used during his career and have long campaigned for more research to be done into the links between football and dementia.

The eldest daughter of Moss, Nikki Trueman, 44, told the DT: "We thought it was too much of a coincidence for so many players to have dementia or Parkinson's or Alzheimer's so it is not a surprise to us but it is good that we have now got some scientific evidence behind it.

"It is just too much of a coincidence when most of the 1966 World Cup team have got some form of dementia.

"Hopefully something can now be done for not just past players but today's players and in the future as well.

"It does not make any difference to us but it is good that it has actually been acknowledged rather than us being ignored and made out to be lying. It is good that we have got some backing on that front."

She added: "Dad will have given his life to football because football will have killed him."

Moss, who made 749 appearances fro nine different clubs during his career in the 60s, 70s and 80s, can barely talk but still watches his beloved Spireites at the Proact and this Saturday the club will be marking his 70th birthday, which was last weekend, at the game against Notts County.
The Spireites legend, who has a road named after him near the Proact, first showed signs of dementia in his 50s.

The frustrating part for the Moss family is what they say is a lack of support from the PFA, the union for professional footballers.

"The thing that upsets my mum the most is that she has never had a phone call from Gordon Taylor (PFA chief executive) or anybody," Nikki said. "They have never actually phoned up and said 'how is he?'

"We have had contact with Richie Humphreys (ex-Chesterfield player and now PFA delegate liaison executive) and the funding side of it trying to get carers allowance but nobody high up has ever made any effort.

"The Chesterfield fans have been outstanding.

"Chesterfield Football Club has been amazing and so have other clubs that dad played for but it is the higher up you go that they have just ignored it.

"The FA has just basically buried their head in the sand.

"It is not about money, it is about acknowledgement and saying 'yes, this has happened' and we need to try and so something to help to stop it happening in the future so it is frustrating but we just get on with it."

The study led by the University of Glasgow compared the causes of death of 7,676 former Scottish male professional football players who were born between 1900 and 1976 against those of more than 23,000 matched individuals from the general population.

Consultant neuropathologist, Dr Willie Stewart, said: “This is the largest study to date looking in this detail at the incidence of neurodegenerative disease in any sport, not just professional footballers.

“Our data show that while former footballers had higher dementia rates, they had lower rates of death due to other major diseases.

"As such, whilst every effort must be made to identify the factors contributing to the increased risk of neurodegenerative disease to allow this risk to be reduced, there are also wider potential health benefits of playing football to be considered.”

Gordon Taylor, PFA chief executive, said: “These findings are a matter of considerable importance to our members. We are grateful to Dr Willie Stewart and his team for their work.

"It is now incumbent on football globally to come together to address this issue in a comprehensive and united manner. Research must continue to answer more specific questions about what needs to be done to identify and reduce risk factors.

“Our members wellbeing is of paramount importance to us, and we are committed to representing their voice as this conversation opens up across football’s stakeholders."

And Greg Clarke, FA chairman, said: “The whole game must recognise that this is only the start of our understanding and there are many questions that still need to be answered. It is important that the global football family now unites to find the answers and provide a greater understanding of this complex issue. The FA is committed to doing all it can to make that happen."