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Dementia in football: Former footballers urged to donate brains for research |  Football News

Former footballers with dementia urged to donate their brains to Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group by the families of Bill Gates and the late Nobby Stiles.

Gates, who was diagnosed with the disease, performed for Middlesbrough in the 1960s and 1970s alongside Stiles and Willie Maddren and was also directed by Jack Charlton.

All three having died of degenerative brain diseases, Dr Judith Gates, Bill’s wife, called on others to get involved in the research.

Speaking of why the Gates family chose brain donation, Dr Judith Gates said, “We cannot change the trajectory of Bill’s disease.

“However, like his legacy, we can try to prevent future families from feeling our sadness.

“Increasing knowledge about dementia and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is the only way.”

Scientific and clinical evidence increasingly indicates that exposure to sports-related head injuries, including repetitive head injuries, can cause this neurodegenerative damage.

A recent field study also indicated that former professional footballers were five times more likely to suffer from dementia than the general population.

However, currently only postmortem exams can offer definitive evidence in the hope that this research will help shed light on how head impacts in sports affect the brain.


Judith Gates, wife of former Middlesbrough player Bill Gates who was diagnosed with dementia, says current and future players need to be protected from the disease. Photo credit: ITV

The Stiles family also made the collective decision to donate to research with the brain autopsy providing answers to the cause of his dementia.

Granddaughter Caitlin and her son Rob said: “We knew if we asked Dad if he would donate his brain to help other players, the answer was obvious – of course he would. It was also important for us as a family whether daddy’s dementia was caused by the game he loved.

“The autopsy results confirmed what we had suspected all along, concluding that he suffered from CTE associated with TBI (head trauma) and exposure to head shock, due to his previous involvement in the soccer.

“The process did not delay the funeral arrangements but gave us an invaluable opportunity to get the answers and help find a solution. Our goal was to ensure that Nobby’s suffering was not in vain.”

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