Football authorities are to look at concerns that heading heavy leather footballs could be a cause of dementia.
The news came after three of England’s World Cup winning heroes were diagnosed with devastating Alzheimers, including former Huddersfield Town star Ray Wilson.
Wilson, Martin Peters and Nobby Stiles are all now battling to live with Alzheimer’s – feared to have been linked to decades of heading traditional heavy leather case balls.
Wilson’s wife Pat revealed at the weekend how the condition has hit her 81-year-old husband hard.
Now the FA has confirmed it will ask FIFA to investigate if there is a link between dementia and head injuries in football.
There have long been concerns that head injuries and concussions caused during matches are having severe long-term effects on players.
The family of former England striker Jeff Astle have campaigned tirelessly after his death in 2002 was attributed to repeatedly heading heavy footballs.
Read more: Buckingham Palace honour for Denis Law CBE
The FA’s chief doctor Ian Beasley will speak to FIFA about exploring further the long-term medical dangers of playing the game.
“We are taking some research questions to FIFA imminently to ask, ‘Can you help us in trying to find out if dementia is more common in ex-professional footballers?’ he said.
“The trouble is we just don’t know,” Beasley added. “It’s a massive undertaking to try and decide whether there’s an association between having played professional football and cognitive decline.”
Neuroscientist Dr Michael Grey said that persistent “microdamage” caused to the brain can result in dementia and called for more research.
Watch England V West Germany 1966 world cup final in colour below
Wilson was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2004, Peters, 72 , three years ago and 73-year-old Stilesy four years ago.
Former team-mate Jackie Charlton has also told how he is suffering from memory loss.
And England manager Sir Alf Ramsey had the disease in the years before his death at 79 in 1999.
World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks said: “It’s horrible, all this Alzheimer’s.
“It makes you wonder if it is anything to do with the footballs.
“We played with balls that are a lot heavier than they are now, with all that leather in.
“These guys had to practise heading those balls day in, day out, for years over the course of their careers.”
Peters’ daughter’s partner Mark Lovett is in no doubt the leather balls caused his condition.
He said: “They were so heavy, especially when wet.
“And players like Pele and Bobby Charlton could hit them so hard it was like being struck by a boxing glove.”
Until now, Wilson’s family have not spoken about his illness. But wife Pat, 78, who devotes her life to caring for him, said he has been in a steady decline over the past 12 years.
She added: “There are people he played with at Huddersfield and Everton with Alzheimer’s.
“They are all over. They have talked about heading the leather ball causing it.”