Dean Smith calls for further research into dementia in footballers

By Carl Markham, PA
·3-min read

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith insists “no stone should be left unturned” when it comes to research into dementia in footballers.

Smith has personal experience of the disease as his father, who died in March, had been diagnosed with it in 2014.

It is a topic which keeps returning to the headlines, most recently after former England and Manchester United player Sir Bobby Charlton was diagnosed with dementia earlier this month.

Sir Bobby Charlton
Sir Bobby Charlton was recently diagnosed with dementia (Geoff Caddick/PA)

“It’s one of the toughest things to go through, seeing parents suffering with dementia,” he said.

“I’ve spoken openly before about the struggles my dad had, and eventually having to go into a care home.

“We need to make sure there is no stone left unturned to go and find out whether there is certainly a correlation between heading a football and dementia.

“Until we get that it’s very difficult to change the game. My dad suffered with dementia for seven years but he was never a footballer so we know it’s prevalent in the world and society.

“But if there is a correlation between heading a football and dementia we certainly have to look at it.”

Smith has also called for more data to be produced to help make an informed decision on whether five substitutions should be reintroduced into the Premier League this season.

Prior to the international break the likes of Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp were outspoken on the need to bring back the option for more replacements during matches to prevent injuries.

But Smith, who has seen Jack Grealish and John McGinn each play three times in a week for England and Scotland respectively, has not seen an impact on his players.

Asked whether he was still opposed to a change, he said: “I am still of that mind.

Dean Smith, left, and assistant John Terry
Dean Smith, left, is happy with the substitutions at his disposal (Laurence Griffiths/PA)

“I can only go off my players and the football club, I’ve spoken to them and I want to look after them and make sure their welfare is good.

“I’m speaking to them all the time and they have no problem at the moment.

“We had four games in eight days, which is a hell of a lot, but we’ve also had eight weeks off between March and June.

“If there’s a player welfare issue then I’m all for changing it. I would have to see a trend in the data that suggests there is an issue.

“I’d support that but until then I’m happy to stick with three subs.”