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Widow's FA fury over 'brain injury'

The chairman of the Football Association has "swanned off" to the World Cup without addressing research that shows former England striker Jeff Astle died from a brain condition normally linked to boxers, the player's widow has said.

Astle, who is best remembered for scoring West Brom's winning goal in the 1968 FA Cup final, died in 2002 aged 59 after being originally diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

But neurosurgeon Dr Willie Stewart carried out a re-examination of Astle's brain at Glasgow's Southern General Hospital after being granted permission by the footballer's family.

It emerged earlier this month that he concluded Astle had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease found in individuals with a history of multiple concussions and other forms of head injury.

Astle's family have been campaigning for the FA to investigate the damage caused by head injuries in football.

His wife, Laraine Astle, broke down in tears today as she described her disgust that FA chairman Greg Dyke has not contacted his family after he was sent advance notice of the latest examination of her husband's brain.

She said: "We thought foolishly perhaps that we would have had some reply from him as the seriousness of CTE was found which left no doubt whatsoever what killed Jeff.

"We perhaps thought an email or a phone call just to say 'I did receive your letter and I'm so sorry to read how badly damaged Jeff's brain was and the result of it'."

But she said the family has had no response from Mr Dyke.

"He's swanned off to Brazil and he's never acknowledged anything," she said.

Mrs Astle made the comments at the launch of a cross-party report, entitled Concussion Can Kill, which calls for a Parliamentary inquiry into concussion in sport.

On hearing her remarks at the event in Portcullis House, central London, Labour MP Chris Bryant said: "That is pretty despicable to be honest.

"If only 0.7% of the transfer money that is spent on footballers every year was devoted to research, it would make a dramatic difference and families such as yours might not have to face this again."

Mrs Astle, 67, added: "I just feel the FA, they don't care. They just want the World Cup and all the things that go with it.

"They're not bothered about former players. They're not bothered about our family's suffering."

Mrs Astle said she supported the cross-party report which calls for a coherent set of concussion protocols covering all sports, and independent peer-reviewed research into the subject.

It also stresses the need for better co-ordination between sports, schools, colleges and doctors, and promotes a clear message that "concussion can kill".

Mr Bryant, who is one of the authors of the report, warned that UK sport could not afford the 765 million dollar (£455 million) lawsuit brought by American football players seeking compensation for head injuries.

He said: "Such a legal case in the UK - which is not inconceivable if the sporting bodies refuse to act and provide proper advice and proper protection for the players - would close rugby down, I mean literally close rugby down."

He went on: "We are convinced that not everything is yet known.

"We are convinced that the divergence between the protocols in different sports and therefore the different messages that are sent out is quite dramatic.

"I'm conscious in Wales that the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) seems utterly complacent about concussion in Welsh rugby.

"There is nothing on the WRU website which refers to concussion at all.

"When I visited them they seemed more intent on being defensive in their position than on searching for the truth."

Mr Bryant added: "We're not saying concussion will kill. It won't in the vast majority of cases.

"But it can kill. It can be fatal and people need to realise the seriousness of what we're dealing with. The brain is a very fragile part of the body."


From Belfast Telegraph