Birmingham & Black Country

Jeff Astle's widow to meet FA chairman Greg Dyke over head injury concerns

Jeff Astle, the former West Bromwich Albion striker Image copyright PA
Image caption Jeff Astle played for West Bromwich Albion from 1964 to 1974

The chairman of the FA has offered to meet the widow of former footballer Jeff Astle to discuss what it is doing to analyse head injuries in the game.

The ex-West Bromwich Albion and England forward died in 2002 from brain trauma caused by heading heavy leather balls.

The FA had promised a 10-year study into the effects of heading footballs but nothing has been published.

Mr Astle's widow, Laraine, has now received a letter of apology from the FA chairman, Greg Dyke.

In the letter Mr Dyke apologises for the FA's lack of contact and says he will meet the family to discuss their concerns.

The letter goes on to say a commission has been set up to investigate head injuries, which includes representatives from the FA, the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) and the Premier League.

Dementia and depression

Mrs Astle, who lives near Swadlincote in Derbyshire, said: "I think about Jeff every day and after waiting 12 years for this apology I just want some closure.

"I want to ask Mr Dyke why it's taking so long to look into this because we just want football to be safer for youngsters coming into the game."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption West Bromwich Albion fans are planning to hold more protests at the game against Cardiff on Saturday

Mrs Astle said she was backing calls by the Labour MP for Rhondda, Chris Bryant, for a Parliamentary inquiry into the issue.

Mr Bryant said: "All the evidence from the USA shows head injuries in sport can lead to onset of early dementia, depression and other medical problems.

"What happened to Jeff Astle has happened to hundreds of other professional footballers... we want a full inquiry to get the facts out there."

A study in the US in 2011 led doctors to say they had found evidence on brain scans that frequently heading a football could lead to brain injury.

Lead researcher Dr Michael Lipton said at the time: "Heading a soccer ball is not an impact of a magnitude that will lacerate nerve fibres in the brain.

"But repetitive heading could set off a cascade of responses that can lead to degeneration of brain cells."

Banners and protests

On Saturday a group of West Bromwich Albion fans, including Jeff Astle's daughters, launched a campaign called Justice for Jeff at the club's match with Hull City.

Supporters waved banners and held a minute-long round of applause after nine minutes to symbolise the number nine shirt Astle wore during his career.

The group said more protests were planned for the team's home game with Cardiff on Saturday.

Jeff Astle played for West Bromwich Albion from 1964 to 1974.

He scored 137 goals in 292 league appearances for the club and is recognised as one of its greatest players. He scored West Brom's winning goal in the 1968 FA Cup final and also played for England in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

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