The PFA is and always has been committed to a duty of care for all past, current and future members and has lobbied the football authorities to join with us on all aspects of health and safety in the game.

Neurological problems in later life – which may be connected to concussion, head injuries and heading the ball – have been on our agenda for the last 20 years.

Key Terms

  • Concussion: Temporary unconsciousness or confusion and other symptoms caused by a blow on the head.
  • Dementia: A chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes and impaired reasoning.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Probably the most recognisable and best known form of dementia.
  • CTE: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease which has been found in athletes, military veterans and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

Key question

Is there a link between heading a football and dementia?

“There could well be a link between repeated knocks to the head, perhaps resulting in a feeling of being dazed, and the development of dementia. However, the crucial evidence that proves a firm association between the two is currently lacking.”

Alistair Burns, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Dementia (March 2018)

Dementia: The Stats

  • 850,000 people have dementia in the UK. It’s predicted there will be 1 million sufferers by 2025 and 2 million by 2051.
  • 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia
  • 40,000 people under 65 have dementia in the UK
  • 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems
  • 225,000 will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes

Industrial disease?

Dementia is not currently classed as an industrial disease. Sufferers of more than 70 diseases can be entitled to benefits payments if they were employed in a job or a training course that directly caused the disease…

Industrial Disease

Published research

In 2001, the PFA, on the advice of The FA’s Medical Committee agreed to part fund along with The FA, a ten year study into the neurological neuro-imaging and neuro-psychological effects of playing professional football. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control this study was reduced to a five year project. However in 2016, the study was published in the Brain Injury Journal.

Changing the game

In 2006, following the injury sustained by Petr Cech in the Chelsea v Reading game, the PFA contacted the EPL, EFL and FA with regard to reviewing the treatment of head injuries and other significant injuries in competition and in training. A consequence of this was a change to the regulations in both leagues which required clubs to share medical information on the facilities available at grounds and also to ensure that all medical staff had the necessary sports medical qualifications.

Petr Cech, Arsenal

A football specific course was developed - Advanced Trauma Medical Management in Football (ATMMIF) which ensures quality assessment in the areas of resuscitation and emergency aid. All medical staff at clubs who are treating players have to have completed the course to practice in professional football.

In 2013, following an injury to Hugo Lloris in the Everton v Tottenham game, the PFA assisted with the development of an educational campaign aimed at all participants within the game and a review of the assessment and treatment of head injuries and concussions.

In 2015, the FA Expert Panel on Concussion and Head Injuries was formed. This Panel comprises of Peter Hamlyn, Neurosurgeon who is the Chairman, Dr Bob Cantu Neurosurgeon and Researcher from Boston, USA; Mr Anthony Beli, Trauma Neurosurgeon, Mr Mike Turner, Sports Physician London, Dr William Stewart, Neuro Pathologist Glasgow, UK; Dr Simon Kemp, Head of Sports Medicine at the Rugby Football Union; Dr Joanna, Neuro Psychologist, London. Observers in the meeting include the PFA, the Premier League and The FA. The expert panel have been instrumental in developing new guidelines which have been adopted as regulations with regard to the assessment, treatment and enhanced return to play protocol. These guidelines and regulations now ensure that the medical staff have full responsibility in the assessment of a player who sustains a head injury and if he/she can continue.

Current research

The PFA is currently supporting three separate research groups and projects... 

  • The PFA have funded ongoing research into head injuries in sport by the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation, examining jockeys and footballers. 
  • The PFA has now commissioned, with The FA, an independent study led by Dr William Stewart of Glasgow University, titled ‘Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk’ (FIELD). The research began in January 2018 and will compare data from around 15,000 former professional footballers with information about the general population.
  • In addition, this year the PFA also confirmed we are working with The Drake Foundation study and will recruit 300 former players to help examine the link between heading the ball or concussions and long-term cognitive function.

A practical guide to living with dementia

The PFA and Sporting Memories have jointly produced a practical guide to living with dementia for people who have received a diagnosis and for their relatives/carers.

The guide below has been produced to help members who have received a diagnosis of dementia – either of a family member or themselves. It has been designed to give some useful information on the disease, practical first steps and tips on living day to day with dementia.

Produced in association with the Sporting Memories Foundation, it has been found that recalling sporting events and sports people and looking back through photo albums and memorabilia can stimulate memory, keeping people connected and promoting conversation.

Support for members and their families

The PFA continue to offer help to all members and their families in a variety of ways including - guidance, support, access to respite care and representation from an Independent Benefits Adviser.

Contact the PFA

If any members or their loved ones are looking for support, please call the PFA on 0161 236 0575 or email info@thepfa.co.uk.