Sir Geoff Hurst said he supports a ban on children heading footballs in the wake of sweeping dementia diagnoses and deaths among his 1966 World Cup-winning teammates.

Sir Bobby Charlton, his brother Jack, Ray Wilson, Martin Peters and Nobby Stiles have all been diagnosed with the disease, and Jack Charlton, Wilson, Peters and Stiles all died over the last two-and-a-half years.

The former England and West Brom striker Jeff Astle died in 2002 aged 59 because of repeated trauma from heading footballs, described by a coroner as an “industrial injury”.

Celtic legend Billy McNeill is among the Scots former players who have succummed to the disease.

A ground-breaking Glasgow University study published last year found footballers were at a significantly heightened risk of developing a range of neurodegenerative diseases compared to the general population.

READ MORE: Scots dementia experts hail 'exciting' study breakthrough in Alzheimer's Disease prevention 

The former footballer said he would “absolutely” be willing to donate his brain to dementia research after his death.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Sir Geoff, 78, said he believes regular heading in matches and training back then contributed to a large number of players from that era ultimately developing Alzheimer’s.

He told the paper: “There seems to be a particular group of people who were suffering. I go back to my practice days at West Ham, we had a ball hanging from the ceiling, we would head it for 20 minutes.

READ MORE: The Scots area classed as one of the best in the world for dementia care 

“Then we’d play head tennis in the gym and, in the practice on the field, we’d be practising near-post, far-post headers, and you could head 20 or 30 balls in the space of half an hour.”


Sir Geoff said a ban on kids heading the ball “would be a very strong and sensible suggestion”.

He added: “I think stopping at that young age, when the brain has not matured, must be looked at.

"I don’t think it would destroy the enjoyment of kids’ football or grassroots football.”

The Herald is campaigning for improved treatment, care and financial support for people affected by dementia.