Wife of Norwich City legend Duncan Forbes welcomes research into link between football and brain illnesses

Janette and Duncan Forbes at their home in Thorpe St Andrew

Janette and Duncan Forbes at their home in Thorpe St Andrew - Credit: PHOTO: Jim Spilling

The wife of Norwich City legend Duncan Forbes has cautiously welcomed new medical research into the relationship between football and brain illnesses.

Duncan Forbes made 357 appearances for Norwich between 1968 and 1980.

Duncan Forbes made 357 appearances for Norwich between 1968 and 1980. - Credit: Archant

The Football Association is planning to explore whether heading footballs can create a greater risk of developing brain illness in later life.

Now, Janette Forbes, whose husband now suffers from Alzheimer's, is hoping the research will make the issue clearer.

Mrs Forbes said: 'I definitely think it is about time the link was researched – I just hope it produces open, honest results.

'If an independent body carries out the research I will have more faith.'


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The FA, along with the Professional Footballers' Association, had been lobbying international governing body FIFA to investigate on a global scale, but has now pledged to press on with the study domestically.

Mr Forbes, 74, made more than 300 appearances for the Canaries, and first showed signs of Alzheimer's around 2005.

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Mrs Forbes said: 'As Duncan was a centre back he used to head the ball all the time. In training he even used to head a medicine ball – the theory was he would be able to head a football further. There is no doubt in my mind that this has caused his problems nowadays.'

Norwich's Player of the Season for 1970 is currently in a care home, where his devoted wife visits him on a daily basis.

She said: 'Physically he is still strong but he is going downhill mentally and cannot really hold a conversation any more.

'I still see him every day and he's much the same to look at, but he's gradually disappearing.'

However, while his condition is worsening, Mrs Forbes insists: 'There is still something there'.

She added: 'He was always a people person, and still is.'

Mr Forbes is one of a number of former footballers to develop from brain diseases in later life, with fellow ex-Canary and World Cup winner Martin Peters also suffering from Alzheimer's.

The connection was brought to the public eye in 2002, when former England striker Jeff Astle died of a degenerative brain disease at 59.

A coroner concluded that Mr Astle's death was an 'industrial disease' due to heading the ball.

Do you have a health story? Contact health correspondent Nicholas Carding on nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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