The families of football and rugby players living with dementia invited Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Kenny Dalglish to discuss with them how the current approach to understanding the link between blows to the head and the illness has to change.
Dr Judith Gates, wife of former Middlesbrough defender Bill Gates, has helped bring together a group of families across both sports and she wants the former managers — who will speak with Gareth Southgate and Jurgen Klopp at a virtual fundraising event in aid of dementia research tomorrow — to understand the challenge over the ‘ultra-conservative’ approach by some scientists.
The families believe this outlook is a huge obstacle to the illness being designated an industrial disease — one aim of Sportsmail’s dementia campaign.
Sir Alex Ferguson (R) and Sir Kenny Dalglish (L) have been invited to discuss dementia with the families of former football and rugby players living with the disease
Dr Gates, whose husband has severe cognitive deterioration after years of heading which caused him regular migraines in his 20s, said: ‘This week’s event is brilliant news. I would love to talk to all of the speakers. We want them to understand where the real potential for research lies.’
Dr Gates is concerned that several major organisations who attract funding — including the International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation and the International Consensus Group on Concussion in Sport — are arguing that a direct link between football and brain disease can only be proven by examining hundreds of deceased players’ brains with a similar sized control group. That would take at least 20 years.
Jurgen Klopp has joined Sportsmail’s dementia fight and will attend the event on Friday
Many families believe that funding should go to the type of work undertaken by Glasgow University’s Dr Willie Stewart, who has already identified the greater occurrence of brain disease in ex-footballers.
‘We want funding to be directed to benefit the players and the games,’ said Dr Gates.
‘We have to get the focus right.’