Former Norwich players demand action after report on concussion in sport

Dimitris Giannoulis of Norwich leaves the match with a head injury during the Sky Bet Championship m

Dimitris Giannoulis went off injured with a head injury. - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Sports can no longer be left to "mark their own homework" on reducing the risks of brain injury from concussion, an inquiry by MPs has concluded.

Norfolk researchers and campaigners, including former Norwich City players, have welcomed the report that calls for a standard definition of concussion that all sports must use, and a paid medical officer at every major sporting event.

Shaun Preddie of Harrow gets up for a header (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Shaun Preddie of Harrow gets up for a header (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, which examined acquired brain injury, found failings including a lack of government action on previous safety recommendations.

The report accused football authorities of taking too long to engage with the issue and that a coroner's verdict on former West Brom and England striker Jeff Astle almost 20 years ago should have led to a "stronger, sustained interest" in the issue.

Dr Michael Grey, from the University of East Anglia’s School of Health Sciences, who also gave evidence as part of the report, said: "This is a challenging report, noting particularly that government and sport authorities have not done enough in this important issue.”

Dr Michael Grey who leads a project to monitor ex-footballers for early signs of dementia at the Uni

Dr Michael Grey who leads a project to monitor ex-footballers for early signs of dementia at the University of East Anglia.  - Credit: UEA

He added: "The report tends to focus on elite and professional sport. We should not lose sight of the fact that millions of people participate in sport every weekend. 


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“Sport related brain injury is therefore a public health issue and there remains a need to look for ways to prevent and reduce such injuries where possible.”

The report recommends the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) work with sports organisations to establish a national framework for the reporting of sports injuries by July 2022.

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Within a year of that, all sports should be required to report any event that might lead to an acquired brain injury, it states.

Dr Grey is currently undertaking a ground-breaking UEA research project into repetitive head impact exposure in sport that involves 50 current and former professional players, including Iwan Roberts.

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Former Norwich City striker Iwan Roberts - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

Speaking in a three-part podcast series on concussion awareness in sport and the role of headgear, the former Wales and Canaries striker said: “The sad thing is, it's probably taken for us to lose some proper legends of the game. 

“Over the last two years or so, we've seen three or four from the England '66 team sadly pass away with this horrible illness [dementia] for it [concussion] to come to the forefront.”

Chris Sutton: 'Act now..don't kick the can down the road again'

Chris Sutton speaking during the digital, culture, media and sport committee meeting

Chris Sutton giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee. - Credit: Parliamentlive.tv

Former Norwich City footballer Chris Sutton, a campaigner on the issue of head injuries in sport, having seen his father Mike die after a long battle with Alzheimer's following his career in football,  was among those to give evidence.

Urging urgent action on the report’s findings, he said families did not want the “can kicked down the road” again. 

“Football still needs a limit on heading in training to be introduced. Does this hurry that up?” he wrote in the Daily Mail. 

“It still needs coaches to be educated on why it's unnecessary for children to be heading the ball. Will that be set up?”

Norwich City player Chris Sutton and his father Mike Sutton. Photo: Archant Library

Norwich City player Chris Sutton and his father Mike Sutton.  - Credit: Archant Library

Addressing the DCMS recommendation that UK Sport should pay for a medical officer at every major sporting event, he added: “Every Premier League game? Every Championship? Lower? Let's see what happens next.

“As always, as much as I'd like changes to happen now, I expect this to be a slow process because football works at its own snail's pace.”

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