This weekend news broke that England World Cup winner and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton has sadly been diagnosed with dementia.


Sir Bobby had a highly successful and eventful career as a footballer, winning three league titles and an enviable selection of silverware including the 1966 World Cup and the Ballon d’Or. He was also a survivor of the Munich air disaster in 1958 which killed 23 people including 8 of his Manchester United teammates.


Bobby’s wife, Lady Norma decided to share the family’s heartache in hope that revealing the diagnosis could help others coping with a diagnosis for either themselves or a loved one.


Football and Dementia


Bobby is not the first of the ’66 heroes to have been diagnosed with dementia. He is actually the fifth team member to receive a diagnosis. Martin Peters and Ray Wilson were both diagnosed whilst in their sixties and have since passed away. Sir Bobby’s older brother, Jack, died in July 2020 and Nobby Stiles died on 30 October 2020.


There is a serious concern that so many footballers of an older generation have suffered brain damage as a result of using a leather football which is much heavier than the footballs used today, especially when playing in wet conditions.


Former England international Jeff Astle died aged 59 in 2002 after living with dementia for five years. The inquest into his death found that heading heavy leather footballs repeatedly had contributed to trauma to his brain.


Sue Lopez, a pioneer of women’s football became the first female player to publicly blame her dementia on years of heading the ball. Sue is now 75 years old and has campaigned for young footballers to stop heading the ball amid research that suggested women are at a higher risk of becoming concussed.


For some time, the link between football and dementia has been debated and researched. A study in 2017 found that a higher risk could be connected to head trauma from heading a football, since then further work has been done and the Football Association has made changes to coaching for children who are no longer trained to head the ball in age groups under 11 years old. Under 18’s also have very limited coaching in heading.


There is still more research to be done, and new studies are underway to learn more about changes to the brains of footballers as they age.


How Can You Beat Dementia?


Many people worry about getting dementia in later life or are concerned about their loved ones suffering with the debilitating condition.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia and there is also no guaranteed solution to prevent it either, however, there are some things that you can do which may help to lower your risk.

  • Keep your brain active and growing by continually learning new things, testing your memory, playing cognitive games and reading.
  • Keep your body fit and healthy by taking part in regular physical exercise throughout your life as you age.
  • Eat well and avoid being overweight. Foods that are good for brain health include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts), berries, nuts, beans, wholegrains, olive oil and foods high in Omega 3 and iron such as fish.
  • Maintain an active social life.
  • Take good care of your mental health.
  • Avoid smoking or taking drugs.
  • Keep a close eye on your blood pressure.
  • Take action if you notice that your hearing is getting poor.

Legal Affairs and Dementia


Whilst the immediate concerns following a diagnosis of dementia are likely to be living arrangements, health and day-to-day care, it is also important to consider legal protection.


Once someone has lost their mental capacity it can be tricky to make important decisions about their finances, property, legal matters and personal welfare.


A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is the best way to protect yourself or your loved one. An LPA will appoint someone that you trust to make decisions and act on your behalf. They are often used for issues such as selling property to allow someone to move into a care home, managing bank accounts and making payments or deciding on important care or treatment that is received in hospital.


A Lasting Power of Attorney must be made whilst someone has mental capacity, meaning that they can understand all the information, make informed decisions, retain information, and communicate their decisions.


It is important to check that loved ones have their legal affairs in good order, ideally before a diagnosis of dementia is given. In the early stages of the condition it may still be possible to put things in place with the input of their GP and a Solicitor.


Getting Legal Advice


If you are concerned about dementia and want to ensure that you have everything prepared or would like to talk to someone about the legal affairs of a friend, relative or neighbour who is suffering with dementia, then please call Debbie Duggan on 01256 844888.


Alternatively you can email us at enquiries@lambbrooks.com, speak to our live chat assistant on our website or take a look at our various articles and information pieces on dementia which are listed below this article.


Other Articles You May Be Interested in Reading:

Do’s and Don’ts: Dealing With Dementia

How to Talk to Children About Dementia

What to Buy for Someone With Dementia at Christmas

Taking Care of Aging Parents


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.