21 October 2020

Footballer's Death Attributed to Dementia Induced by Professional Football

Alex Denton

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Alex Denton

Last week HM Senior Coroner John Gittins found that the death of former international footballer, Alan Jarvis, was caused by his participation in professional sport.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Mr Jarvis played for Everton, Hull City and Mansfield Town, as well as securing international caps for Wales. He died in 2019 from Alzheimer’s disease, having repeatedly headed footballs during his career.

The conclusion is the second known of its kind in the UK. In 2002, an inquest into the death of former England and West Bromwich Albion footballer, Jeff Astle, found that Mr Astle developed dementia as a result of his occupation, having spent years heading heavy leather footballs. The conclusion also coincides with an increase in research being conducted into the incidence of neurodegenerative disease in professional sport. One such study was recently led by the University of Glasgow in 2019 and funded by the Professional Footballers' Association Charity and Football Association. It concluded that the rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease was approximately 3.5 times higher amongst former professional footballers when compared to the average person, including a 5 times higher rate of incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Overall, the conclusion as to the cause of Mr Jarvis’s death could pave the way for professional athletes (or families on their behalf) to claim compensation for industrial disease after sustaining head injuries during their career.

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