Wolverhampton Wanderers: Former players association says dementia research is 'long overdue'

Mike Bailey (left of centre)
Mike Bailey made 436 appearances for Wolves and helped them win the League Cup in 1974

Dementia research "is long overdue", according to an ex-players' group that says it is "aware of several former players" who have died suffering from the condition.

The Wolves Former Players' Association (WFPA) spoke after ex-club captain Mike Bailey was diagnosed with dementia.

The WFPA said research was "much needed to safeguard the health of footballers in the future".

Studies have linked dementia in players to heading footballs.

However, definitive evidence would require a long-term study.

The family of Bailey have made the 78-year-old's diagnosis public "to highlight the ongoing issues and support investigations around the number of ex-footballers suffering from dementia".

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) recently announced a new taskforce to further examine the issue of brain injury diseases in football.

The players' union has been accused of not doing enough by ex-Blackburn striker Chris Sutton and the families of two former England internationals who both had dementia before they died.

Criticism of the PFA has come from Dawn Astle, whose father Jeff played for West Brom, and John Stiles, whose father Nobby was a part of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team.

Sutton has also been critical of the union after his father, a former footballer, was diagnosed with dementia.

Former Wolves striker John Richards, a WFPA member who played alongside Bailey, said: "The Wolves Former Players' Association are fully behind all the work being done by people like Dawn Astle and so many others to encourage further research into the condition.

"We are also inspired once again by Mike that he and the family have decided to take the courageous decision to make this diagnosis public, in the hope of highlighting the issue further at a time when so many former footballers are being affected by this terrible disease."

The PFA announced its Neurodegenerative Disease Working Group (NDWG) last week, with plans to consult Sutton and Dawn Astle.

Sutton, however, has told BBC Sport he has "no plan to join the taskforce and doesn't want to be associated with the PFA in its current guise".

The PFA said it would continue to fund Dr Willie Stewart's research into the issue after the neuropathologist found last year that former footballers were between two and five times more likely to die from degenerative brain diseases.

And it has also called for heading in training to be reduced in order to protect current players while a potential link between heading and long-term brain injuries exists.

Stewart found that Astle died in 2002, aged 59, of a brain condition normally linked to boxers, and that it was caused by heading footballs.

Stiles, who passed away last month, aged 78, is one of five members of England's World Cup-winning squad to have had dementia.

His fellow England World Cup winner and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton has also been diagnosed with dementia and Charlton's brother, Jack, also suffered with it before his death in July.

Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo, asked on Friday about the link between heading footballs and dementia, said: "It is a very difficult situation because games require heading the ball, so we have to do it."It is something that should have further studies so we can have a better opinion but I see a very difficult situation, because even in the youth, it is part of the game."So how can you take away a part of the game? But I cannot ignore that and if that is the case, we have to do something."

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