A new study of England footballers from the 1965-66 season has underlined once again the dangers associated with the persistent heading of footballs.
The debate about the risk of brain injuries as a result of heading has come to the fore again in recent weeks, following the death of Nobby Stiles and the revelation that Sir Bobby Charlton has been diagnosed with dementia. The former Manchester United teammates are among the six members of the England World Cup winning squad of 1966 who later contracted serious neurological condition s later in life.
And now this study has made clear that they are by no means alone.
The research focused on 475 professional footballers from the 22 teams in the First Division at the time (now the Premier League). 185 of that group have since died, and, of them, the cause of death was found to be due to some form of neurological condition or illness associated with brin injuries.
That is 42^ with the overwhelming majority of them either having contracted Alzheimers, Parkinsons disease, or motor neuron disease.
That is considerably above the national average for men of the same age who pursued non-sporting careers.
It backs up a major research study. The results of which were published last year by Dr Willie Stewart, regarded as one of the world experts when it comes to establishing causal links between brain injuries and heading.
His paper looked into the cause of death of more than 7,500 Scottish players between 1900 and 1976, comparing it to more than 23,000 people from the general population.
Dr Stewart concluded that footballers were between 3.5 and 4.5 times more likely o suffer from some sort of neurodegenerative disease later in life than normal members of the population.
The latest findings have led to the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) to demand more research urgently, and some have even called for heading to be banned in training at all professional clubs urgently.
It is already banned in many forms of youth soccer, particularly in the USA, where links between those who have played contact sports like American football and a high incidence of subsequent brain injuries are not only well-established, but have been the subject of high=profile lawsuits as well.