Footballers with dementia urged to donate brains

Footballers with dementia urged to donate brains

Former footballers with dementia are being urged to donate their brains to the Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group by the families of Bill Gates and the late Nobby Stiles.

Gates, who has been diagnosed with the disease, played for Middlesbrough in the 1960s and 1970s alongside Stiles and Willie Maddren and was also managed by Jack Charlton.

With all three having died of degenerative brain conditions, Dr Judith Gates, Bill’s wife, has called on others to get involved in the research.

On the reasons why the Gates family opted for brain donation, Dr Judith Gates said: “We can’t change the trajectory of Bill’s disease.

“However, as his legacy, we can try to prevent future families from experiencing our sadness.

“Increasing knowledge of dementia and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is the only way.”

Scientific and clinical evidence is increasingly indicating exposure to sports-related traumatic brain injuries, including repetitive head injuries, can cause this neurodegenerative damage.

A recent field study also indicated that ex-professional footballers were five times more likely to suffer from dementia than the general population.

However, currently, only post-mortem examinations can offer definitive proof with the hope that this research will help shine a light on how head impacts in sport affect the brain.


Judith Gates, wife of former Middlesbrough player Bill Gates who has been diagnosed with dementia, says current and future players must be protected from the disease. Picture credit: ITV

The Stiles family also made the collective decision to donate to the research with the brain autopsy providing answers to the cause of his dementia.

Granddaughter Caitlin and son Rob said: “We knew if dad was asked whether he would donate his brain to help other players, the answer was obvious – of course he would. It was also important to us as a family to find out whether dad’s dementia was caused by the game he loved.

“The results of the autopsy confirmed what we suspected all along, concluding that he suffered CTE associated with TBI (traumatic brain injury) and head impact exposure, due to his prior participation in football.

“The process did not delay funeral arrangement but gave us an invaluable opportunity to gain the answers and help find a solution. Our aim was to ensure that Nobby’s suffering was not in vain.”

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