| Monday, November 11, 2002 14:22 EST
Forward died of degenerative brain disease in January
BURTON, England -- A coroner determined that a former
England World Cup forward died from a degenerative brain disease
caused by the heading of a heavy leather soccer ball.
Jeff Astle, who scored in the final of The Football Association
Cup in 1968 and missed an easy chance in a World Cup game against
Brazil two years later, died in January at age 59.
Dr. Derek Robson, a consultant neurological pathologist, told
the inquest there was evidence of brain injury consistent with
"repeated minor trauma".
"I found that there was considerable evidence of trauma to the
brain similar to that of a boxer," Robson told coroner Andrew
Haigh. "It is quite probable that it was heading a heavy football
that caused it. I found that most damage to the brain was at the
front of the head.
"It is unlikely that he would have developed the condition so
young if he had not headed a football repeatedly. "From the
evidence, the persistent heading the ball could be a factor in the
loss of Mr. Astle's faculties and his behavior."
Astle scored many of his 174 goals on headers, and was regarded
as one of the best at the long-range header when soccer balls were
made of leather and tended to soak up rain. In the mid-70s, ball
coverings became synthetic, a material that repelled water and was
The Astle family have always maintained that his death was
caused by repeatedly striking a football with his head. The coroner
recorded a verdict of "death by industrial disease" -- which meant
that his pro career had effectively caused his death.