England football legend Geoff Hurst admits it’s been an “unbelievably brutal” year after seeing his 1966 World Cup-winning team-mates Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton both lose their battles with dementia.
Stiles died in October, aged 78, after suffering from dementia and prostate cancer. The former Manchester United star is the fifth member of the 1966 squad to have been diagnosed with the brain injury disease, BBC Sport reports. Jack Charlton died in July and at the start of this month his brother Bobby was also diagnosed with dementia.
Hurst, who scored a hat-trick for England in the 1966 World Cup final, has been left deeply “shocked and saddened” by the loss of his friends.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Hurst said he would donate his own brain if it helps research on the impact of heading footballs.
“Yes, absolutely,” Hurst said when asked if he would consider the donation. “I’ve never been asked that question before and my straight answer is yes if it helps. If I could help families who have people die and donate their organs, I think that’s a fantastic thing for other people.
“So if I could help in that way, I would discuss it with my wife and she would have no objections to me doing it. The straightforward answer would be yes.”
Reflecting on this year, he added: “A lot of it has come and happened over a short period of time and when you’ve grown up with people, been part of a great team, enjoyed reunions over the years and had great, happy fantastic memories. It’s been unbelievably brutal in many respects.”
‘A key issue’
West Ham legend Hurst, 78, believes there should be a ban on kids heading footballs at a young age and has backed calls for clubs to limit heading in training sessions. He wants to see further action taken to tackle the “inarguable” link between football and dementia, The Independent reports.
“It is becoming a bigger issue every day and it has to be one of the key issues for the new FA chairman to address,” Hurst said. “The bigger the issue gets, the more difficult it is for people in the higher levels of sport to step away from dealing with it.
“I see something almost every day about ex-players who are suffering. Sir Bobby [Charlton] is the fifth member of our ’66 team to suffer from dementia – and other squad members have suffered too.
“There is a strong, inarguable link. Anything that can be done to increase the research around this will be hugely beneficial to current and former players.”
It’s been announced today that the Professional Footballers’ Association will be setting up a new taskforce to further examine the issue of brain injury diseases in football, BBC reports.