Former football players with dementia are being encouraged to donate their brains to the Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group by the families of Bill Gates and the late Nobby Stiles.
Gates, who was diagnosed with the disease, played for Middlesbrough in the 1960s and 1970s alongside Stiles and Willie Maddren and was also led by Jack Charlton.
As the three died of degenerative brain disease, Dr. Judith Gates, Bill’s wife, called on others to become involved in the research.
Regarding the reasons why the Gates family opted for brain donation, Dr. Judith Gates said: “We cannot change the course of Bill’s illness.
“However, as a legacy, we can try to prevent future families from experiencing our sadness.
“Increasing knowledge about dementia and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is the only way.”
Scientific and clinical evidence increasingly indicates that exposure to traumatic brain injuries related to sport, including repetitive head injuries, can cause this neurodegenerative damage.
A recent field study also indicated that former professional soccer players were five times more likely to suffer from dementia than the general population.
However, currently, only post-mortem examinations can offer definitive proof in the hope that this research will help to clarify how impacts on the head in sport affect the brain.
The Stiles family also made the collective decision to donate to brain autopsy research providing answers to the cause of their dementia.
Granddaughter Caitlin and son Rob said, “We knew that if you asked Dad if he would donate his brain to help other players, the answer was obvious – of course he was. It was also important for us as a family to find out if he had dementia was caused by the game he loved.
“The autopsy results confirmed what we suspected from the beginning, concluding that he suffered CTE associated with TBI (traumatic brain injury) and exposure to impact on the head, due to his previous participation in football.
“The process didn’t delay the preparation of the funeral, but it gave us an invaluable opportunity to get the answers and help find a solution. Our goal was to ensure that Nobby’s suffering was not in vain.”