MPs have accused the Football Association of being “too embarrassed” to admit how little it spends on research into brain injuries in players during a bruising encounter in parliament.
The politicians became annoyed while investigating the link between sports and dementia.
The Ministry of Culture, Media and Sports Committee had already heard an explosive testimony from former attacker Chris Sutton on Tuesday.
MPs in the DCMS committee investigate links between sports, brain injury and dementia
The ex-Blackburn Rovers forward is leading the way Sportsmails campaign about dementia and football.
He said that the CEO of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Gordon Taylor, “had blood on his hands” because he was not more likely to respond to dementia in ex-players.
Ex-striker Chris Sutton testified to the committee
Brain injury campaigner Dawn Astle had told MPs that more research and support for players was now needed, and that new rules were now needed to limit the course in practice.
And in a wide-ranging survey, former bobsleigh and ice hockey competitors had told politicians how their careers were cut short and health endangered after suffering serious head injuries during the game.
The chairman of the committee, Julian Knight, finally snapped when Dr. Charlotte Cowie, chief of medicine at the FA, couldn’t rate him how much the governing body has spent on research in this area.
“I’m baffled you didn’t come here today with the information about how much you’ve spent on research in the past year,” Knight argued. ‘I find it unacceptable.
‘I don’t blame you as a person. I’m sure you have a lot to do at the FA.
Dr. Charlotte Cowie, the FA’s chief of medicine, was questioned by MPs on the committee
‘The situation is that you are standing before a parliamentary committee.
“We have spoken to people today, young athletes who are talking about their incontinence, who are talking about being afraid of their future and wondering if they will die because of their sport.
DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight was annoyed that Dr. Cowie could not rate him for research funding
Heather Wheeler MP wants faster action against dementia in football
And you are seriously telling this committee that you don’t know how much the FA has spent on research on this topic in the past year?
“I think you’re too shy and I can’t blame you.”
Dr. Cowie remained remarkably calm as the temperature of the debate rose, explaining that the FA and the professional footballers’ association had funded the pivotal FIELD brain injury study among footballers.
The work of Dr. Willie Stewart, a celebrated neuropathologist at the University of Glasgow, concluded in 2019 that former players were 3.5 times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases than the general public. The work cost £ 250,000.
In addition, she said the FA has now issued a new call for investigation to build on the poignant findings of the FIELD study and will pay whatever it takes to find answers.
“There’s really no funding limit we’ve set for this,” said Dr. Cowie. ‘We just want it to be the study that answers our research questions.
“I can put my hand on my heart and say we didn’t allocate any cash for this.”
Football could also argue that the issue of dementia is a national and international challenge that should be funded by more than just the FA.
Dawn Astle wants brain degeneration in football players to be declared an industrial disease
However, MEPs did not just exercise the funding. They were apparently convinced by the arguments of Sutton and Astle, whose father Jeff died in 2002 at the age of 59 of brain damage resulting from repeated headlines during his career at West Bromwich Albion.
The link between the rubric and his death was noted on the death certificate by the coroner.
Sutton and Astle turned out to be a devastating collaboration. They had argued that not enough has been done in the past 20 years to protect footballers from brain damage.
In addition to more funding, the MPs wanted certainty about the number of heads that players can do in training, also at a professional level.
Outgoing PFA chief Gordon Taylor has been criticized for failing to adequately address the issue
Dr. Cowie explained that the FA is committed to reducing the amount of cups in training in the adult and professional game.
“We are now drawing up guidelines for the youth,” she said.
‘Someone from the youth group only headed the ball 10 times a week. They are the strictest guidelines in any governing body in the world.
‘We are going to provide guidelines in the professional game. It depends on a number of things. One of them is a study that we are currently doing on how effective those guidelines are with youth coaches and we are trying to understand [the impact of different] types of headers.
The DCMS wants to know what actions can be taken to reduce risks for active players
The rulers of football decided to introduce permanent concussion replacements, not temporary ones.
The reasons for the move, given by the board of the International Football Association, were:
- prevent a player from sustaining another concussion during the match, as multiple head injury incidents can have very serious consequences
- send a strong message that, if in doubt, the player will be withdrawn, but there is no numerical or tactical disadvantage by prioritizing the player’s well-being
- reduce pressure on medical personnel to make a quick assessment
“We want a bit more detail on that before we decide on it in the professional game.”
That was not enough for some members and the meeting grew more and more hostile.
“I’m listening to all of this,” said Julie Elliott, Labor MP for Sunderland Central MP.
‘We don’t need any other research to tell us that there is a problem and that people are dying and becoming seriously ill from head injuries in sports.
‘In the workplace if something becomes clear, it is stopped [it is] discussed what makes the workplace safe again.
“In sport we somehow seem to work with different rules.”
Meanwhile, South Derbyshire Conservative Member of Parliament, Heather Wheeler, said she was ‘almost lost to words’.
“We’ve had all this science, had all this history,” she said. ‘We have a death certificate from 20 years ago and after another investigation we are doing another investigation because we don’t want to change anything due to unforeseen consequences.
‘Someone has to jump on the shark somewhere here. Maybe make this your life’s work, Charlotte.
‘I don’t know if I could do your job, honey. Not really. ‘
Earlier, MPs had pressured Dr. Cowie to introduce permanent concussion replacements in football, as opposed to the temporary replacements allowed in rugby.
Dr. Cowie said there were concerns that temporary subs could cause players to return to the action with a missed concussion.
And doctors in the game would have preferred permanent replacements for an 18-month trial period.
Sportsmail’s dementia campaign started last November and has received the support of former footballers and MPs