Tragic England legend Peter Bonetti’s Alzheimer’s was caused by his daring dives as a goalkeeper, his brother Phil claims today.
He says the Chelsea star, nicknamed The Cat, was knocked unconscious many times at opponents’ feet.
And in daily training with outfield team-mates he also ended up heading balls a lot – suspected to be the cause of a disease that often strikes old players from the Sixties and Seventies.
Peter – who won seven England caps and was in the 1966 World Cup squad –died in April at 76 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011.
Phil, 67, once a junior goalkeeper, said: “In Peter’s day, goalies would train with the outfield players and that involved heading.
“It was the lace-up leather balls of the 60s. Once they got wet they were really solid and heavy. The players trained every day and headed balls.
“Also because Peter was so agile he would also come out head first and dive at people’s feet. Many times he was knocked unconscious.” After the diagnosis confirmed family fears, Phil recalled Peter used to say: “My head is a bit fuzzy… I can’t remember things.”
Last year a study funded by the Professional Footballers Association and the FA proved a link between dementia and football, causing a five-fold increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s.
And this month it was revealed Sir Bobby Charlton has become the fifth member of the 1966 World Cup team to suffer dementia. The others include his late brother Jack.
When Peter was diagnosed, wife Kay sought advice from relatives of fellow England hero Jeff Astle, whose death in 2002 at 59, first seriously linked dementia with heading balls. Jeff’s daughter Dawn wants the Industrial Illness Advisory Panel to classify it as an industrial disease in football.
Phil added: “It’s tragic so many footballers of that generation suffered dementia. I pray that research can one day find a cure.”
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