Sir Geoff Hurst has offered to donate his own brain for dementia research after watching 1966 team mates die in an “unbelievably brutal” year.
Hurst, 78, the hat-trick hero of English football’s greatest triumph, has seen former team mates Nobby Stiles and Jack Charlton die this year and Sir Bobby Charlton diagnosed with dementia in 2020.
Former England striker Hurst is one of only four members of the World Cup winning team still alive and admits he has been left deeply “shocked and saddened” to see his friends and team mates pass away down the years.
Hurst believes more must be done to combat dementia and Alzheimers disease which has been closely associated with heading footballs and the deaths of former England players like Martin Peters, Ray Wilson and ex-West Brom striker Jeff Astle.
West Ham legend Hurst says there should be a ban on kids being allowed to head footballs at too young an age while he also says he would also be willing to play his part after his own death if it helps research on the impact of heading footballs.
When asked whether he would donate his own brain, Hurst said: “Yes, absolutely. Jeff Astle has done it of course through his daughter Dawn and looking at that and someone else doing that is good.
“I’ve never been asked that question before and my straight answer is yes if it helps. If I could help, families who have people die and donate their organs, I think that’s a fantastic thing for other people.
“So if I could help in that way, I would discuss it with my wife and she would have no objections to me doing. The straightforward answer would be yes.”
Hurst admits that he has found it difficult even to talk to his wife about the upset of losing former team mates and then Sir Bobby Charlton’s recent diagnosis of having dementia.
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“A lot of it has come and happened over a short period of time and when you’ve grown up with people, been part of a great team, enjoyed reunions over the years and had great, happy fantastic memories,” he said. “It’s been unbelievably brutal in many respects.
“We live in a strange world at the moment, a technological world where we do video calls and don’t see people face to face. This is the longest conversation I’ve had about this issue by far. The news on Sir Bobby was so sad, such a great man and player.
“I’ve got no-one immediately close to me who has it, but through my daily conversations with Martin Peters and our wives, we were very much aware how unbelievably difficult it is for a family member to deal with someone who has dementia. It’s so difficult.”
Hurst has his one theory as to why the heroes of 66 have been so badly hit and it has left him convinced that football should think seriously about a total ban on youngsters heading balls.
He added: “Just look at the team, not just the team but the squad itself and it seemed to be higher than the national average. There seems to be a particular group of people who were suffering.
“I go back to my practice days at West Ham, we had a ball hanging from the ceiling, we would head it for 20 minutes.
“Then we’d play head tennis in the gym and, in the practice on the field, we’d be practising near post, far post headers and you could head 20 or 30 balls in the space of half an hour. I personally feel it’s more about the practice.
“I think kids heading the ball now when their brains are not fully developed or have fully matured and that is obviously a very serious and sensitive issue that’s got to be addressed as well.
“I think stopping at that young age, when the brain has not matured like an adult, must be looked at. I don’t think it would destroy the enjoyment of kids’ football or grassroots football. That would be a very strong and sensible suggestion.”
Hurst is now supporting a national campaign for people to have Smart Meters installed in their homes not just for the environment and to stop wasting energy but also as an important role in identifying usage and flagging warning signs for elderly or vulnerable.
He added: “There’s so much information coming out of a home, anything that can help must be looked at very seriously and because of my involvement with dementia and Alzheimers, I will do anything to try and help with this terrible illness.”
- Sir Geoff Hurst is encouraging people to contact their energy supplier to request a smart meter installation. Smart meter data could, with consumer consent, transform the way we care for the most vulnerable in our society.