Football

Manchester United legend Gary Pallister fears for dementia after revealing frightening suffering during playing career


Gary Pallister won four Premier League titles with Manchester United (Picture: Getty Images)

Manchester United hero Gary Pallister has recalled the worrying things he suffered during his playing career and now believes that he is a ‘prime candidate for dementia’ as a result.

The 56-year-old played for the Red Devils from 1989-98, winning four Premier League titles and three FA Cups, becoming a key figure in the side which began to dominate English football.

A commanding centre-back, Pallister put his head on a huge number of footballs over a professional career which began and ended at Middlesbrough and ran from 1984-2001.

He believes this is what caused him to suffer some concerning health problems during his career and has left him fearing for his mental capabilities as he gets older.

‘I suffered awful migraines,’ Pallister told The Telegraph. ‘I’ve been knocked clean out. I’ve been on the pitch, woken up, and not known where I am.

‘You put it all together and you start thinking: “Crikey, I’m a prime candidate for dementia”. It’s not a 100 per cent thing, I’m guessing, but you are thinking, “If you are a betting man, the odds are that you are probably at some time in your life going to get it”.

‘I look back and think, “My own experience tells me that heading had an effect”. I suffered a lot with migraines when I started playing as a 16-year-old twice a weekend.

Pallister won nine caps for England from 1989-92 (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I used to think, “Is it because I am playing more football, heading more footballs?” The migraines continued all through my career. It’s black and white for me now that football was one of the main reasons I was probably getting them.

‘I had to go into a darkened room. I started throwing up. I would lose my speech. Get tingling on my arms. Lose my vision. Get blurred vision. It felt like I had a head full of seashells. Any movement caused pain. It was a real weird feeling. It would wipe me out for two days.’

Studies have found that outfield footballers are far more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases than the general population, with heading the ball thought to be a key reason behind those findings.

Butcher wants t see heading banned in football (Picture: Getty Images)

Former England captain Terry Butcher has called for heading to be eradicated from football, phasing it out of the game.

‘Eventually I want to see football have no heading — phase heading out,’ said Butcher. ‘I think you’ve got to do it gradually. I think you have to be very careful but I think you have to look at safety. You have to look at families losing their loved ones too early.

‘I think it’s something that we can do without — and then it would rule out the trauma of heading a football, particularly at pace.’


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