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Study of footballers’ brains highlights dementia concerns

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LONDON (AP) The degenerative damage potentially caused by repeated blows to the head in soccer has been highlighted by a rare study of brains of a small number of retired players who developed dementia.

Fourteen former players were part of the research that began around 40 years ago and six brains, which underwent post-mortem examinations, had signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Four brains were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) pathology, a possible consequence of repeated impacts to the brain, including heading the ball and concussion injuries from head-to-head collisions. A previous study of 268 brains from the general population in Britain found a far lower CTE detection rate of 12 percent.

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The small sample size of former footballers prevented researchers from University College London and Britain’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery from drawing any conclusions about the dangers posed by playing soccer as they released their research.

But researchers hope the findings provide the impetus for more substantial studies in conjunction with soccer authorities. The researchers require current or retired players to be willing to take part of investigations that could take decades to produce conclusions.

“Our findings show there is a potential link between repetitive head impacts from playing football and the later development of CTE,” lead author Dr. Helen Ling of the UCL Institute of Neurology told The Associated Press.

“This will support the need for larger scale studies of a larger number of footballers who need to be followed long term, looking at various aspects in terms of their mental functions, imaging of the brain and also markers that might identify neurological damage.”

England’s Football Association said it is committed to “independent, robust and thorough” research, which it is jointly funding with the players’ union. The Alzheimer’s Society maintained that the latest “results do not provide proof that heading a football, or sustaining a head injury by any other means during the sport, is linked to developing dementia.”

“Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia and it’s important to ensure that people playing any kind of sport are able to do so safely,” Dr. James Pickett, research head at the Alzheimer’s Society, said.

Concerns have grown in Britain about the impact of head injuries after campaigning by the family of former England striker Jeff Astle, whose death at age 59 in 2002 was attributed to repeatedly heading heavy, leather balls.

Astle’s daughter, Dawn, is urging “current footballers or families of footballers to pledge the brain” for medical research.

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“If we hadn’t donated dad’s brain, we wouldn’t know what we know now – we wouldn’t know what had killed him,” Dawn Astle said. “It’s too late for dad. The research is so important for current players and for future players. That’s why we need it.

“I think that’s what is so very frustrating – the fact that it’s nearly 15 years since my dad died. And the fact that nothing from any footballing authorities has been done. It is really indefensible and disgraceful.”

At least four members of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad have developed dementia or memory loss.

In the United States, there has been a $1 billion settlement between the NFL and thousands of its former American football players who have been diagnosed with brain injuries linked to repeated concussions. In 2015, the U.S. Soccer Federation recommended a ban on headers for players 10 and under in a bid to address concerns about the impact of head injuries.

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The British soccer research was instigated by consultant psychiatrist Dr. Don Williams, who started to monitor former players who were diagnosed with dementia from 1980. From Swansea in south Wales, Williams monitored the retired players and collected data on their playing and concussion history.

“In 1980 the son of a man with advanced dementia asked me if his father’s condition had been caused by heading the ball for many years as a powerful center half,” Williams said. “As the brain is a very fragile organ, well protected within the skull, this was a constructive suggestion.

“As a result I looked out for men with dementia and a significant history of playing soccer, followed them up and where possible arranged for post-mortem studies to be carried out.”

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

Most popular Premier League jerseys in each US state revealed

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So, this is interesting.

The folks over at Soccer.com have revealed the top selling jerseys they ship out in each U.S. state and a few of these may surprise you.

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In a nutshell: the USA is red. The red of either Liverpool or Manchester United.

And while the two bitter rivals clearly have plenty of fans Stateside, so too do Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Remarkably, at least according to shirt sales, reigning champs Manchester City are the most popular team in only one state: New Jersey.

Below is a look at the map in full.


Premier League hire new Chief Executive

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The Premier League has appointed a new Chief Executive.

Susanna Dinnage will take over from Richard Scudamore who has led the PL for the last 19 years and is stepping down in December.

Dinnage was previously by media outlet Discovery, where she was most recently the global president of the Animal Planet channel. She previously worked for Channel Five and MTV before being with Discovery over the past 10 years.

The PL confirmed that Dinnage will begin her new role in early 2019 after being chosen by the Premier League nominations committee, which is led by Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck.

Speaking about her new position, Dinnage is excited to led England’s top-flight into a new era.

“I am excited at the prospect of taking on this fantastic role. The Premier League means so much to so many people. It represents the pinnacle of professional sport and the opportunity to lead such a dynamic and inspirational organisation is a great privilege,” Dinnage said. “With the support of clubs and the team, I look forward to extending the success of the League for many years to come.”

Dinnage becomes just the third person to lead the PL since its first season in 1992-93, after Scudamore took over from Rick Parry in 1999.

In its announcement upon hiring Dinnage, the PL also revealed it is now looking for a non-executive Chair as it prepares for Scudamore’s departure by filling two roles.

“The Premier League clubs have already agreed to split his (Scudamore’s) role, with Dinnage becoming Chief Executive, and the search for a non-executive Chair will now commence. The Premier League Nominations Committee comprises: Bruce Buck (Chair), Susan Whelan (Leicester City), Mike Garlick (Burnley), Claudia Arney and Kevin Beeston (both Non-Executive Directors of the Premier League). The Committee is grateful for the assistance provided by Jonathan Smith and colleagues at executive search and leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart.”

Egypt’s retired star Aboutrika sentenced to prison

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CAIRO (AP) An Egyptian court sentenced Mohamed Aboutrika, one of the country’s greatest all-time soccer players, to a year in prison for tax evasion while also giving him the option to pay a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds, or $1,115, to have the sentence suspended.

The verdict, handed down on Monday by the Cairo misdemeanor court, was delivered in absentia.

Aboutrika, who has lived since his 2013 soccer retirement in exile in Qatar, where he works as a sports analyst for the beIN sports network, could not be reached for comment.

Under the law, the verdict can be appealed and if Aboutrika returns to Egypt, he would have to stand a new trial.

The court said Aboutrika failed to pay 710,000 Egyptian pounds – about $39,500 – in taxes on income from advertising deals with carbonated drink and telecommunications companies in 2008 and 2009.

Egypt froze Aboutrika’s assets in 2015 and placed him on a no-fly list in 2017 over allegations of links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have labelled a terrorist organization.

The Brotherhood emerged as the country’s dominant political force after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising but was later purged in 2013, when the army, led by general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi overthrew Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected but divisive president.

Aboutrika played for Cairo’s Al-Ahly club and was central to two of Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.

Aboutrika was dubbed “Prince of Hearts” and “The Magician” by his soccer fans.

But he also openly sympathized with the Brotherhood and publicly endorsed Morsi in his successful presidential run in 2012, a year after the overthrow of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian pro-government media now refer to Aboutrika as a traitor but he still enjoys huge support from his soccer fans in the country.

Aboutrika has repeatedly denied ever funding the Islamists, who have been the main target of a fierce government crackdown on dissent led by current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

How will USMNT line up against England?

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With the U.S. men’s national team currently training in London and the squad for friendly games against England and Italy already having some ins and outs, there are plenty of question marks about who will start at Wembley on Thursday.

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The Stars and Stripes face the no.5 ranked team in the world, with England riding the crest of a wave after their run to the World Cup semifinals in the summer. Gareth Southgate will rotate his team ahead of their crucial UEFA Nations League clash with Croatia on Sunday, and while we know Wayne Rooney will play some part in his final game for England, the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Pickford are set to be rested.

But what about the USMNT? Interim head coach Dave Sarachan largely has his young squad fully together for this game (at last!) with the likes of Josh Sargent, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Tim Weah all available in midfield and attack.

Below is a look at a few options for the starting lineup for the USMNT against England.


JPW’s preferred USMNT XI v England (3-4-3)

—- Guzan —-

— Carter-Vickers — Miazga — Brooks —

— Yedlin — Adams — McKennie — Robinson —

— Pulisic — Wood — Weah —


Possible USMNT XI v England (4-2-3-1) 

—- Guzan —-

— Yedlin — Miazga — Brooks — Robinson —

 — Adams — Trapp — 

— Pulisic —McKennie — Weah —

—– Wood —–


Evaluation

If I was Sarachan I’d go with a 3-4-3 formation and match up with England, who struggle defensively down the flanks as Croatia proved at the World Cup. Having Yedlin and Robinson bombing on as wing backs would cause the Three Lions plenty of problems. In goal, Brad Guzan is now the obvious choice as Zack Steffen left the squad due to injury but Evan Horvath has impressed for Club Brugge in recent months. Defensively, the U.S. has looked more solid with a three-man central defense and that suits CCV, Miazga and Brooks well, but that said, would Sarachan really want those three going man-to-man on England’s attackers? Probably not. That is why I think we will see a back four from the USMNT, with Miazga and Brooks probably getting the nod. Having Adams, Trapp and McKennie in midfield gives the U.S. a more solid feel, while Weah and Pulisic could then support Wood and provide flair as well as digging in and doing their defensive work.