John Robertson: Scottish FA & PFA should have brain damage testing

By Amy MacBeathBBC Sport Scotland
Robertson scoring a goal by header
John Robertson regularly headed heavy leather balls during his career

A system of testing former players for brain damage should be introduced by the Scottish FA and PFA Scotland, says Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager John Robertson.

A Glasgow University study that found footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die from dementia.

Former Scotland striker Robertson, 55, said that was "quite disturbing".

"We're waiting to where this is going to go, as it's a very, very serious issue," he said.

"I'm hoping someone from the PFA or the Scottish FA come forward and say 'here's this check', or even say 'go and see your GP' - that's fine as at least we know where we're going with it."

Robertson referenced cases in America where the National Football League (NFL) reached a settlement of around $1b (£700m) with former players who suffered brain damage as a result of concussion.

"I bring up the American thing because they got experts in to check the players out, if that's the case it would be nice if the football associations did that," he added.

Robertson - who was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame on Sunday - began his career in the 1970s and played professionally throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

He estimates he was knocked out "six, seven, eight times" but played the following week because of a "lack of knowledge or understanding".

"You worry that's going to have an effect," he said. "I played on in games where I was concussed or semi-concussed and came off in games concussed and played in midweek or the following Saturday."

Earlier on Thursday, the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA) called for teams to prevent players under the age of 11 from heading the ball in training, and in games as much as possible.

They are the first football body in Scotland - and one of the first in Europe - to issue such advice and Robertson hopes the rest of the profession can follow suit.

"To be fair to most academies these days we don't do heading drills. It's not really until later on - maybe 15 or 16 - because the kids can't physically get the ball off the deck before that," he said.

"I'm fully behind looking at that, but we seriously have to look and put money into it as there are far too many ex-football players who seem to be developing dementia and Parkinson's as well.

"And I must admit I do feel concerned for myself, I can't speak for other players but I'm sure a few ex-team-mates as well, but I do feel scared of what lies ahead."

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