Ex England women’s football pro blames dementia on heading ball during glory years

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One of England’s pioneering women’s footballers has blamed her dementia on heading the ball as a youngster.

Sue Lopez, now 74, played for England between 1969 and 1979 – and was diagnosed with the memory-robbing disease in 2018.

She is now supporting a ban on heading in under-12 teams across the country – blaming the practice for her diagnosis later in life.

Sue, who was awarded an MBE for her services to women’s football in 2000, said: “I think my dementia has been caused by the heading of a football.

Sue Lopez training at Crystal Palace in 1974
(Image: Mirrorpix)

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“Anything to do with football now, I think, ‘I hope people are being more careful now and not letting young kids head the ball’.”

The ex-pro said she hopes nobody has to “go through” what she has – after being robbed of precious memories from her glory days on the pitch.

Sue also added that she cannot remember who awarded her an MBE, saying, “It was obviously before the dementia”.

A campaign, spearheaded by Dawn Astle, daughter of West Bromwich Albion star Jeff Astle, is calling for an urgent public inquiry into dementia in football.

Former England international Astle died aged 59 in 2002, before an inquest into his death found heading heavy leather footballs repeatedly had contributed to trauma to his brain.

Dawn Astle is calling for an urgent public inquiry into dementia in football
(Image: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Jeff Astle was a hero for West Bromwich Albion – and was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 55
(Image: Getty)

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Speaking yesterday about Sue’s dementia revelations, Dawn said:  “Sue had an absolutely fabulous career before women’s football was even well-known – and she played at the highest level.

“Sadly, like a lot of her male counterparts, she has been diagnosed with dementia.

“She is very dignified and very brave to speak out and if she thinks this has happened to her as a direct link to heading footballs, then why not speak out.

“Sadly, it won’t help her, but it can help others in the future.

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“That’s why we are doing this, for the likes of my dad who was diagnosed aged 55 and died four years later.”

A study commissioned by the FA last year found former footballers are three times more likely to die of dementia.

FA chairman Greg Clarke said it was the “most comprehensive study ever commissioned into neurodegen

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