Former England defensive stalwart Dave Watson is suffering from a degenerative brain disease probably brought on by repeatedly heading the ball, his wife revealed on Friday.
Penny Watson said in a statement released to the PA news agency that her 73-year-old husband’s consultant thinks it is “in all probability Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” — a disease determined as the cause of former West Brom striker Jeff Astle’s death in 2002.
She says the 65-times capped Watson – a member of the Sunderland side that stunned favourites Leeds United in the 1973 FA Cup final – contracted the illness probably as a result of one of his great strengths as a player, namely heading the ball.
“His consultant has concluded that the condition Dave is now living with is in all probability Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – most likely caused by Dave’s many head injuries, including severe concussions, and repeated heading of the ball,” Penny said.
“Dave has good days and bad days. He endeavours to continue to live and enjoy a normal life, as best as possible, however almost every day we are confronted with a new challenge.”
“Even though things have not ended up as we both planned, Dave does not regret pursuing his passion, doing what he loved — playing football.”
Should the diagnosis on Watson, who went on to win the 1976 League Cup with Manchester City and also had spells with amongst others German side Werder Bremen and Southampton, be confirmed it will add further ammunition for those who are arguing for heading to be restricted.
There have been reports that Under-21s in Scotland could be banned from heading the ball in training due to links between football and dementia.
The United States has had a similar ban in place since 2015 but Scotland would become the first European country to impose such a restriction.
The decision follows the release of a report by the University of Glasgow last October that asserted that former footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from a degenerative brain disease than the general population.
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