Steve Bruce scores a late header for Manchester United against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 that put them back on track for their first title since 1967
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Premier League managers have admitted they fear suffering dementia as they united to call for more to be done to investigate its link with football.
Steve Bruce, the Newcastle United manager, said there was a “genuine concern” among players of his generation that they would join the likes of England’s World Cup-winning heroes in contracting the syndrome, adding: “Every day, when I was young, we headed the ball hour after hour.”
David Moyes, the West Ham United manager, said: “I was a centre-half and headed a lot of balls when I was younger, so I could come into a category.” And Ralph Hasenhüttl, the Southampton manager, said: “I definitely took a lot of headers in my playing career.”
Carlo Ancelotti, the Everton manager, was “worried” about the long-term health effects from his playing career, citing the loss of a former team-mate to motor neurone disease.
Former Manchester United captain Bruce said: “I’m all for making sure that we do all the research that we can possibly do, and if there is a link, do something about it. There is a genuine concern when you do see great players from the era just before me. Why shouldn’t it affect my era?”
Moyes and Hasenhüttl called for the introduction of lighter training balls, with the Scot adding: “I don’t think we want to take heading out of the game if we can help it.”
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Ancelotti, meanwhile, referenced the case of Stefano Borgonovo, a European Cup winner with AC Milan in 1990, who died aged 49.
“My team-mate died from MND,” he said. “We were worried about what happened in the past. The treatment that we had then is not the treatment that we have now. Now we have to support the research for the future.”
Sir Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles are two of England’s World Cup-winning team to have been diagnosed with dementia, the pair having also won the European Cup with United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United manager, said: “We’ve seen it close hand with Nobby and Sir Bobby as well. It’s a serious issue. The good thing is, it’s raised awareness.
“I need to know more about it myself as well, so we in football can raise discussions. I just want to say that football has a big responsibility here as well with the profile of what we’re doing.”
Solskjaer said the balls are “better than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago”, but Brendan Rodgers, the Leicester City manager, disagreed. “People look at the modern footballs and say they are lighter, but they are hit much harder than the older balls, so, actually, the players now are getting hit at a different speed,” he said, citing an incident in which defender Jonny Evans had been caught “flush on the head” by a ball struck by team-mate Christian Fuchs’s “hammer of a left foot”.
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Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager, said: “If there are concerns, it’s because there is something going on there. And now we have the technology and resources that can prove it’s something that is going to put in danger the well-being of the players, the kids or whatever. At that stage, we have to consider that very seriously. I had my family living in America, my kids playing in America, and they weren’t allowed to head the ball at all. So I’ve been through that and the way they explained it made sense. All the contact and the issues that have been discovered afterwards in the NFL, for example. So let’s dig into it and see what’s the best solution for it.”