Newcastle United hero Alan Shearer is to undergo a series of dementia tests as part of an upcoming BBC documentary.
In Dementia – Football’s Silent Shame, Mr Shearer will investigate whether years spent heading footballs make ex-soccer professionals more likely to suffer from the condition.
It is suspected that brain damage caused by repeatedly heading balls and colliding with other players could help bring on early dementia.
Researchers are also focusing on a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease which is common among ex-boxers as a result of them suffering frequent blows to the head.
A recent study that conducted post-mortem examinations on six ex-football professionals found that all six had Alzheimer’s disease while four also had CTE.
Helen Ling, a co-author of the study, said,
“Our findings suggest that there is a potential link between repetitive sub-concussive head impacts from playing football and the development of CTE.”
Alan Shearer, well-known as a skilful header of the ball, said he was worried about recent reports linking soccer with dementia. He also said he had watched a number of ex-players succumb to the illness.
Mr Shearer said,
“After watching the movie Concussion (about CTE and American football players), I was intrigued. I was aware of former football players, legends who I grew up watching, suffering from dementia.”
“Could this affect football and footballers too? The more I read about it, the more I felt this was a subject that could no longer be ignored.”
In Dementia – Football’s Silent Shame, Alan Shearer will meet footballers with dementia and their families before undergoing a number of medical checks himself.
Through blood tests and magnetic scans of the brain, doctors may be able to predict Mr Shearer’s risk of developing the condition.
Some scientists, however, are sceptical of the links between football and dementia and Mr Shearer will speak to them in the documentary too.
Mr Shearer will also speak to football’s governing bodies about what some in the footballing community see as a growing problem that has been ignored for several years.
Alan Shearer is widely seen as one of the greatest footballers the north east has ever produced. He holds the record for the highest number of goals scored by a Newcastle United player. He scored 422 competitive goals during his career, 260 of which were in the Premier League. Alan Shearer retired as a player in 2006.