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England manager Southgate to take part in football dementia study

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England’s coach Gareth Southgate looks on during the Russia 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Sweden and England at the Samara Arena in Samara on July 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Yuri CORTEZ /

England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed he is taking part in a research project looking at possible links between football and dementia.

Southgate, who had a long playing career, has volunteered to be part of the HEADING study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is backed by the Football Association.

There are growing concerns over the link between heading in the game and long-term brain injuries.

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England and Manchester United great Bobby Charlton has been diagnosed with dementia. Charlton’s brother Jack and their fellow 1966 World Cup-winner Nobby Stiles were both suffering from dementia when they died.

The HEADING study is looking for members of the Professional Footballers’ Association aged 50 and over to take part.

“This is an incredibly important issue in our game and I’m very happy to play my part in supporting this research,” said Southgate.

“Having turned 50 last year, I am now eligible to take part in the HEADING study, which could provide crucial and valuable insight to help people who play the game now and in the future.”

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Football Association head of medicine Charlotte Cowie said: “Dementia is a debilitating disease across wider society, and we are doing everything we can to build a greater understanding of what causes the link between neurodegenerative disorders and former professional footballers.”

Football authorities have been accused of being slow to act on the issue.

A 2019 study carried out in Scotland found that professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative disease compared with members of the general population.

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In December, the International Football Association Board, the sport’s global rule-makers, announced they had approved trials allowing additional permanent substitutions for actual or suspected concussion from this month.

Restrictions have been put in place to stop children aged 11 and under heading footballs during training in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Similar rules have been in force in the United States since 2015.

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