England boss Gareth Southgate says he “does have concerns” about the prospect of suffering from dementia as a result of his 18-year playing career.
Sir Bobby Charlton has become the fifth member of England’s 1966 World Cup winners to be diagnosed with dementia – the others have all died since 2018.
Southgate, 50, played as centre-back with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, winning 57 England caps.
He said: “At my age, having headed a lot of footballs, I do have concerns.”
A study published in 2019 found that ex-professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.
The report, commissioned by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association, compared the deaths of 7,676 former players to 23,000 from the general population.
“In terms of the link, there is research going on,” Southgate added. “That’s a little bit inconclusive at the moment, which is a bit frustrating for everybody because we’d love to have a clear solution.
“Of course it’s a concern for everybody and we have to keep supporting that research. Unfortunately we don’t have all the answers we’d like at the moment.”
Thirty former professionals have signed up to a study at University of East Anglia while Dr Willie Stewart of Glasgow University, the neurosurgeon who led the 2019 study, has warned the issue is “not just for older-era footballers but modern-era footballers as well”.