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World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst offers to donate brain to dementia research

Written by on 18 November 2020

World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst has said he would donate his brain to science after research linked heading footballs to dementia.

Sir Geoff, 78, told Sky News he “would have to discuss it with his wife first”, but added: “Off the top of my head, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t donate my brain.”

After five of his 1966 teammates were diagnosed with the disease, Sir Geoff is also backing calls to ban children from heading the ball.

Sir Bobby Charlton, his brother Jack, Ray Wilson, Martin Peters and Nobby Stiles have all been diagnosed, with Jack Charlton, Wilson, Peters and Stiles dying over the last two-and-a-half years.

1966 squad Left to right: Harold Shepherdson (trainer); George Cohen; Martin Peters; Gordon Banks; Alan Ball; Bobby Moore (captain); Norbert (Nobby) Stiles. Front row: Bobby Charlton; Roger Hunt; Geoff Hurst; Ray Wilson; Jackie Charlton

Former England and West Brom striker Jeff Astle died at 59 in 2002 because of repeated trauma from heading footballs, described by a coroner as an “industrial injury”.

Sir Geoff told Kay Burley: “It does appear, we are seeing stats now, that professional players are three and a half times more likely to have it than guys on the street. But I’ve always felt that without any stats at all.”

The 78-year-old said he would spend 45 minutes at a time practising heading the ball during his time as a young player at West Ham.

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Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters in 1966
Geoff Hurst (L) is pictured with his World Cup teammates, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters in 1966

“We would play head tennis,” he added.

Findings contained in a study by FIELD – which was funded jointly by the FA and Professional Footballers’ Association – published last year found footballers were at a significantly heightened risk of developing a range of neurodegenerative diseases compared to the general population.

Sir Geoff described the situation as the “awful crisis of dementia that our players are still suffering”.

Geoff Hurst is pictured (C) at goalkeeper Gordon Banks's funeral in 2019
Geoff Hurst is pictured (C) at goalkeeper Gordon Banks’s funeral in 2019

He said annual reunions with his 1966 colleagues had to be stopped five or six years ago because they became “too sad”.

And experiencing the decline of his West Ham teammate Martin Peters was “very traumatic”, he added.

The FA has said it has a “clear and unwavering commitment” to battling dementia, after the family of Nobby Stiles claimed it had failed to “address the scandal” of the illness in the game following his death this year.