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Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough willing to donate brain to help scientists research dementia link


Ian Baraclough

Ian Baraclough

Ian Baraclough

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has revealed he would be willing to donate his brain to help scientists research and combat dementia.

The debilitating disease has become more prominent in recent months after several ex-footballers, such as 1966 World Cup winners Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton, died from dementia.

Meanwhile a group of ex-rugby union players are preparing to bring a lawsuit against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union for an alleged failure to protect them against concussions.

The department for Culture Media and Sport Select Committee announced on Wednesday it would be conducting an examination into the links between between sport and long-term brain injuries as part of an inquiry.

And now Baraclough has signed up to help the cause by offering to donate his brain to science to help discover if there is a link between football - particularly heading the ball - and dementia.

The 50-year-old played at the highest level of the sport for 20 years, appearing in over 600 games along with taking part in countless training sessions, and admitted he was moved to take action when he heard England manager Gareth Southgate talking about the issue.

"You think back to the times when you did heading training. You were heading a football, probably a hundred times a week and it is quite scary," Baraclough told Sky Sports News.

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"As coaches and managers now we certainly have to be more mindful of it and I am championing the fact that for young kids heading the ball, we have to do it in different ways.

"Thinking back to some of the sessions we did, you were probably heading 30 or 40 footballs a day, whether it was part of a warm up or whether you were doing a session on defending set pieces."

The Northern Ireland boss also recalled a scary incident he had while playing for QPR in a Championship game against Tranmere Rovers when he was knocked unconscious after going for a header.

"I swallowed my tongue apparently," he added.

"The medical help was on pretty quickly. I woke up and was in the medical room. I have no recollection of what happened. I was told it was a pretty hefty blow from behind and I had a headache for the next two or three days and had to gradually let myself get better."

The latest research into dementia has indicated that former footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from degenerative brain injuries than non-sports players, which is down to heading the ball.

Baraclough added that he is not an advocate for taking heading out of the game altogether but did lend his support to a limit on how much heading players can do in midweek training.

A number of new studies into dementia are underway, including the University of East Anglia's SCORES project, led by Professor Michael Grey, which assesses 200 footballers using various memory-based tests.

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