Death of footballer at age of 29 linked to effects of heading the ball

Patrick Grange from Albuquerque, who played at semi-professional level, died from motor neuron disease

New fears have been expressed about the danger of head injury to footballers after a leading research centre in the United States discovered its first case of a death possibly associated with the sport.

Patrick Grange from Albuquerque, who played at semi-professional level and had hoped to join a Major League Soccer club, died at the age of 29 from motor neuron disease, which normally affects much older people. Dr Ann McKee, the neuropathologist who examined his brain, said the damage was to the part of the head used in heading the ball.

She declined to define that as the strict cause of death, but identified it as a case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been found in the brains of many former NFL players and boxers, adding: "We can't say for certain that heading the ball caused his condition in this case, but it is noteworthy that he was a frequent header of the ball."

Grange's parents, who recalled their son undertaking special heading practice from the age of three, said he had later been knocked unconscious and also needed 17 stitches in his head after collisions in different matches. In a film called Head Games released in the United States next month, Christopher Nowinski of the Boston University Centre for the study of CTE says: "You scan a soccer player's brain and it no longer looks like the average person's."

Cases in Britain have centred on players from older generations heading old leather footballs, although Alan Birkbeck, a senior engineer at Glasgow's Mechanical and Engineering Department, has claimed: "The modern ball is not really safer."

In 1998, the former Clyde and Celtic player Billy McPhail lost a case for disablement benefit after claiming he had developed the first stages of dementia from heading heavy balls in the 1940s and 1950s. An inquest into the death of the former West Bromwich Albion and England striker Jeff Astle in 2002 brought a verdict of "death by industrial disease", concluding that his degenerative brain disease was "entirely consistent" with repeated heading.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most