“It’s been a long, long time waiting, too long in my opinion”: Jeff Astle’s daughter reacts to long overdue dementia study.

“It’s been a long, long time waiting, too long in my opinion”: Jeff Astle’s daughter reacts to long overdue dementia study.

APRIL 2017

For Dawn Astle, the daughter of former West Brom great Jeff, “the overriding emotion is just relief” after the launch of a new study examining the link between football and dementia.

Dawn-AstleThe FA and PFA recently launched this new investigation to establish the extent to which footballers are suffering from brain injuries such as dementia, over a decade after Dawn’s father Jeff died as a result of industrial disease linked to excessive heading of the football.

Dawn believes that the realisation of football as a potential killer lead the authorities to “sweep it under a carpet”.  

“My own personal opinion is that I think they are terrified of the implications for the game. I don’t think anybody really wants to think that football can be a killer, and as we know on dad’s death certificate that’s exactly what it was”.

“In any other industry it would have had earthquake like repercussions, but not football”

Jeff Astle died in 2002, a year after the FA and PFA launched an initial study into problem, raising questions about what the authorities knew about the risks of dementia for footballers even before the landmark coroners’ verdict.

“Dad’s coroners’ court enquiry said very clearly that dad’s occupational exposure had made at least a significant contribution to the disease which had killed him and of course he ruled industrial disease. So dad’s job had killed him”.

“We were heartened by the news that the FA and PFA where undertaking this 10 year study, it started in 2001 and that was even a year before my dad died so that begs the question what did the FA actually know”.

The 2017 study will look at the question of whether footballers are suffering disproportionately from brain injuries compared to the general public. If the study does indeed prove this hypothesis to be true, then Dawn suggests that the research needs to be used to make players aware of the risks.

“It’s never been about banning the game it’s never been about banning heading its part and parcel of the game of course it is. But it is about informed choice and unless you have the research and you know what the implications are if you’re playing football and that you are at a higher risk of getting dementia then you can make those informed choices”.

Years of campaigning by Dawn and the Jeff Astle foundation have played an integral part in bringing the troubles facing football into the spotlight, with the justice for Jeff banners appearing at West-Brom-fans-hold-up-a-Justice-For-Jeff-banner-for-Jeff-AstlePremier League games a key part of that. “I think doing that has sort of highlighted it” Dawn suggests. “A lot more people who I know off know about it and know about dad and about what we are trying to do. And I do think it has spread to grassroots but there is still a lot more we need to do and that’s one of our aims of the Jeff Astle foundation is to educate people”.

Dawn argues that without the work of the foundation we wouldn’t be where we are currently; “I think without it I don’t think it would have been done, I think it would have still been swept under a carpet. I really do think that”.

15 years after Jeff’s death, for Dawn and the foundation in her fathers’ name, it’s now all about making sure this investigation leads to the safety of the future generations; “now evidence is sort of mounting week in week out and its only right and proper that the research is done not just for former footballers but for today’s footballers and footballers of the future”.

 


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