A retired footballer died of dementia triggered by heading a heavy ball so much during his career, a coroner has ruled.
Coroner John Gittins ruled that Alan Jarvis’s death was an industrial disease brought on by playing football.
Jarvis, 76, who played for Everton and Hull City in the 1960s and 70s, died from pneumonia and dementia in a care home in Mold, North Wales last year.
His family said the midfielder was ‘constantly heading the ball’ in games and in training.
They also said he was once knocked unconscious on the pitch and suffered a detached retina.
Coroner John Gittins ruled that Alan Jarvis’s (pictured) death was an industrial disease brought on by playing football
Jarvis (pictured back left playing for Hull City in 1966) who played for Everton and Hull City in the 1960s and 70s, died from pneumonia and dementia in a care home in Mold, North Wales last year
He had to spent two weeks in hospital after playing for Mansfield Town against Wrexham.
Jeff Astle: The former England footballer famed for his ability to head the ball whose tragic death sparked a landmark ruling
Jeff Astle was a former England and West Bromwich Albion footballer famed for his ability in the air.
Jeff Astle was a former England and West Bromwich Albion footballer famed for his ability in the air
But his death, aged 59, in January 2002 created another legacy.
He was the first football deemed to have died as the result of ‘industrial disease’, with a coroner ruling that repeated contact with the heavy leather ball used in the 1960s caused trauma similar to that of a boxer.
In the later years of his life, he suffered degenerative brain disease.
And family members said they always believed it was his heading of the football that had played a part.
Speaking at the time, Dawn Astle, his daughter, said: ‘We have always believed that heading the ball caused the brain damage and we wanted justice for dad. The game that he lived for killed him.’
Following the ruling, The Football Association said that footballers’ brains would now be monitored, although modern balls were much lighter and did not cause such damage.
In 2008, the Jeff Astle Foundation was launched. The organisation is dedicated to raising awareness of brain injury in all sports and to helping those afflicted.
His family were so convinced that his dementia was brought on by football that they donated his brain to researchers at Glasgow University.
The team, lead by Dr Willie Stewart, have been looking into the link between brain injury and football.
The family claim his death is identical to that of former England and West Brom Jeff Astle, who died aged 59, having suffered degenerative brain disease.
In 2002 a coroner ruled the striker died of industrial disease, and that heading heavy, often rain-sodden, leather footballs also caused his death.
Dr Stewart’s evidence convinced the North Wales coroner John Gittins that there was a link between Jarvis’s dementia and football.
Jarvis, who won three caps for Wales and played against England’s 1966 World Cup team, had to retire aged 30 from a knee injury and then became a quantity surveyor.
He said: ‘On balance, it is my view that his previous occupation contributed to the degeneration of his neurological function.’
He ruled that Jarvis’ death was ’caused by an industrial disease’ and that the circumstances were similar to the ‘Jeff Astle case’.
Mr Gittins added: ‘I think sadly there maybe others in the future.’
However, the coroner said the the situation is ‘by no means unequivocal’.
He said: ‘It must be very clear I am not saying playing professional football always causes dementia.’
Speaking outside Rutin Coroner’s Court in North Wales, Jarvis’ family welcomed the coroner’s verdict.
His daughter Sarah, 46, said: ‘We are pleased and agree with what the coroner said.
‘My dad was constantly heading the ball in training and in games and the footballs were a lot heavier in those days.
‘He was also knocked unconscious on the pitch once.
‘My dad was such a nice guy and he did not deserve to die such a horrible death.
‘I would say that the FA need to look after the older players as the families suffer massive trauma in these cases.
‘My dad did not deserve to die like that. ‘I love football and so did my dad and I would not change a thing about it.
Speaking outside Rutin Coroner’s Court in North Wales, Jarvis’ (pictured: His daughter Sarah) family welcomed the coroner’s verdict
‘But my sons plays under-12 football and we can’t have them heading the ball at that age.
‘The footballs are a lot lighter now but we still need things to channge.’ Jarvis signedd for Everton aged 17 but then left to play for Hull City when he was 21.
His wife Dilys, 73, told the inquest: ‘He was constantly heading the ball and the balls were a lot heavier and thicker in those days.
‘When he was not playing he would be in the garden doing keepy-uppies and constantly heading the ball.
She added: ‘I have no doubt his Alzheimer’s was brought on by head injuries coupled with those heavy balls.’
Dr Willie Stewart: The man whose research has led to major changes around heading in football
Dr Willie Stewart had worked for over two decades on his research into brain injuries and football.
It led to the introduction of concussion protocols and better management of head injuries in top level professional football.
The research, which studied data from 7,676 male ex-professional footballers in Scotland, found they were three-and-a-half times more likely to die from conditions linked to brain or nerve damage, such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease.
Dr Willie Stewart (right) led the study that found that former professional footballers are three and a half times more likely to die of dementia
While emphasising that the benefits of sports far outweigh the risks, last year Dr Stewart has previously called for the introduction of concussion substitutes in football, with Dr Stewart condemning football’s lawmakers for still worrying about potential gamesmanship;
Uniform protocol on coaching heading through Europe, particularly at youth level. As an FA advisor, he says that there is no longer any benefit from heading as part of youth football. Earlier this year it was announced children aged 11 and under will no longer be taught to head footballs during training in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Stewart says that there is no longer any benefit of heading in youth football
He believes there should be more specific research to track current and recently retired footballers to see how their brain develops as they age;
He has also called for an introduction of a national database to collate cause of death from brain diseases for sportsmen and women so it can be treated like any other industrial injury.