Classifying whether brain trauma received by footballers should be considered an industrial injury is to be debated in the Scottish Parliament for the first time.
It follows a number of high-profile former professionals revealing brain conditions including dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Research has uncovered professional players are five-times more likely to suffer from conditions including dementia than the general population.
North East Labour MSP Michael Marra secured the debate on Tuesday evening, backing calls from campaigners who want urgent support for players and their families.
An investigation into football and brain injuries confirmed for the first time in 2019 links between the beautiful game and dementia.
The inquiry, led by Dr Willie Stewart at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, studied data from 7,676 male ex-professional footballers in Scotland and found they were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from conditions linked to brain or nerve damage, such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease.
Scottish football legend Denis Law was the latest in a long-line of former players to be diagnosed with mixed-dementia, which he revealed publicly earlier this year.
Community champion Amanda Kopel, whose husband Frank played for Dundee United and Manchester United, spearheaded a campaign backed by The Courier for free personal care for under 65s following her beloved partner’s early dementia diagnosis.
Dubbed Frank’s Law, a legislative change was brought about to extend free personal care to people of all ages who are assessed as requiring it.
Mrs Kopel has now joined the #InjuryTime campaign which will be debated at Holyrood on Tuesday.
On the agenda
Dundee-based MSP Mr Marra listed a number of demands the campaign wants the Scottish Government to do, including:
- Classify brain injury in football as an industrial injury.
- Fund research into the practical and preventative support that is needed in the game.
- Establish a working group to consider the issues around brain injury and dementia, including in the grassroots game.
He said: “This debate is key in ensuring real action is taken on this issue. Action from the Scottish Government is needed now.
“Every month now, we hear of more high-profile cases of former footballers being diagnosed. Behind those high profile cases will be dozens more unreported, where families are struggling on, doing their best for their loved ones and our heroes.
“The science is clear – these injuries are clearly a result of the time that these men spent playing the game we all love. They have unknowingly sacrificed their health for our entertainment and its time that we supported them properly.
“The Scottish Government must recognise that these injuries are a form of industrial disease and allow these players to access the support they need, and deserve.”