Sport is left to ‘its own homework’ on brain injuries, a DCMS study finds

Sport has been left to ‘its own homework’ on brain injuries, a DCMS investigation shows… accusing the FA and PFA of ignoring the issue in football and MPs calling for an end making ‘long-term failure’ about reducing risk

  • A damning DCMS report on brain injuries in sports was released Thursday
  • The survey found that sport should regulate itself on this issue
  • Sports post columnist Chris Sutton has been praised for his campaign on dementia
  • Dawn Astle, daughter of West Brom legend Jeff, is also being praised for his campaigning
  • The DCMS called for an end to the ‘prolonged failure’ to reduce the risk of trauma

Sport has been left to ‘its own homework’, according to a DCMS brain injury inquiry, which also accused the FA and PFA of ignoring the issue in football.

A report published on Thursday Sports post columnist Chris Sutton, who led this paper’s campaign on dementia, has been commended for his efforts.

Dawn Astle has also been hailed for campaigning as the football bodies failed to address the issue after a coroner said her father, Jeff, died of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 2002.

After five evidence-gathering sessions with MPs, the DCMS says they are ‘astonished’ that sport has been left to regulate itself by the Health and Safety Executive – the UK’s national regulator for wellbeing in the workplace.

“The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes a duty of care on employers to protect workers’ health, which should apply to footballers and jockeys as well as miners and construction workers,” the committee said.

“The report finds that legal responsibilities for employees have been effectively delegated to national governing bodies to manage.”

A coroner said heading the ball killed ex-West Brom striker Jeff Astle (pictured) in 2002

Dawn Astle, Jeff's daughter (pictured), has been praised for her brain injury campaign campagne

Astle died of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but bodies haven't addressed the problem

Dawn Astle, Jeff’s daughter (left), is praised for her brain injury campaign

They have now called for urgent action from the government and sports organizations to address a ‘prolonged failure to reduce the risks of brain injury’.

Among other findings and recommendations, the DCMS says:

  • There is no overall responsibility within the sport to impose minimum standards for concussion
  • The government should set a minimum standard definition for concussion for the whole of the UK, which all sports must meet
  • The Health and Safety Executive should work with sports to establish a national framework for reporting sports injuries
  • UK Sport should pay a medical officer at every major sporting event

This call for change comes after Sports post launched our campaign, led by Sutton, who testified to MPs, to fight for football to finally tackle the dementia problem.

The DCMS say in their study that they are 'amazed' that sport should regulate itself

The DCMS say in their study that they are ‘amazed’ that sport should regulate itself

With the report, DCMS chairman Julian Knight said: ‘We are shocked by evidence of athletes who have suffered head trauma, putting their future health at stake in the interest of achieving sporting success for the UK.

Amazingly, when it comes to reducing the risks of brain injury, sport has been allowed to mark its own homework.

“The Health and Safety Executive is legally responsible, but risk management seems to be delegated to national governing bodies, such as the FA. That is dereliction of duty that must change.

A call to action to address the 'prolonged failure' of brain injury was made by the DCMS

A call to action to address the ‘prolonged failure’ of brain injury was made by the DCMS

“The failure of these sports organizations to address the issue of acquired brain injuries is compounded by a lack of government action. Too often it has taken no action on player welfare and has instead relied on irresponsible sports authorities.

“What’s worrying is grassroots sport with mass participation, where we’ve made negligible efforts to detect brain injuries and track long-term effects.”

Judith Gates, founder of Head for Change, the charity pioneering positive change for brain health in sports, said: Sports post: ‘Now is the time for everyone involved, governments and non-profit organizations, independent researchers and experts in dementia care, educators and coaches, to come to a solution together.

DCMS chairman Julian Knight said shocked by evidence of athletes with head trauma

DCMS chairman Julian Knight said shocked by evidence of athletes with head trauma

‘If we don’t make the necessary changes now, when will they come?

“Head for change is committed to being part of the solution. We are eager to partner with anyone who shares that commitment. We hope the DCMS report will provide the tipping point we have long needed.”

An FA spokesperson said: “We welcome the Select Committee’s report and will review the recommendations with relevant stakeholders.”


The DCMS supported several demands made on football’s governing bodies by: Sports post in our seven-point charter from last November:

1 – Increased funding from the FA and PFA for independent research into dementia and its links to football.

  • reaches (FA has issued a new call for more research this year) and supported by DCMS.

2 – The PFA to provide respite to families and carers of former professional football players with dementia.

  • reaches (Sports post has spoken with families of former footballers who are now receiving help from the players’ union).

3 – The PFA to appoint a dedicated ‘dementia team’ and partner with the Sport United Against Dementia campaign and the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect support line, promote and financially support them.

  • reaches (Dawn Astle and Rachel Walden agreed to work with the PFA on an initial six-month advisory basis).

4 – The PFA helps fund regular social events for people with dementia and their carers.

  • reaches (the PFA Charity works with the Sporting Memories Foundation).

5 – Dementia should be formally recognized as an industrial disease.

  • Still campaigning, supported by DCMS.

6 – Football legislators, IFAB, to ratify temporary concussion replacements.

7 – Clubs to limit the course at all levels. Maximum 20 headers per session in training. Minimum 48 hours between sessions.

  • Awaiting new rules for this season.