A footballing legend who played for Rangers in the 1990s is backing a campaign aiming to prevent those who play sport from developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Former England striker Mark Hateley said he was spurred to back the campaign because his father, Tony, who was also a professional footballer, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The ex-player has urged followers to take steps that can reduce their risk of developing dementia by backing the Keep SPORT (which stands for Socialise, Protect, Optimise, Rest and Train) in Mind campaign.
His father died in 2014 and Mr Hateley said he was pleased there is growing awareness of what people can do to keep their brains in peak condition.
“We know a lot more now than we did when dad and I were playing about just how important it is to protect players from the harms of head injury,” he said.
“We need to continue to push for better support for all former, current and future players of contact sports in order to protect the health of the brain throughout life.”
“My dad was a giant in an age of physical football when there was little awareness of what might be happening inside players’ heads.”
Tony Hateley played for Aston Villa, Chelsea and Liverpool in the 1960s. It was an era when matches were played with heavy, often sodden, footballs.
Mr Hateley said: “He was robbed of that later stage of his life with very little support from his industry and Government.
“We all work hard so we can enjoy life when the hard work is done – so we can watch our kids and grandkids grow.
“We need to live all our life fully – not just half of it.”
The campaign will formally launch on Saturday to coincide with the Scotland Women’s Six Nations rugby match against Wales and it will offer simple tips to help sports players achieve better brain health.
The campaign has received backing from the Scottish Football Association, Scottish Rugby Union and SportScotland.
The campaign, and its socialise, protect, optimise, rest and train message, is a reminder of the need to build friendships, keep brains injury-free, eat healthily, take time to relax and stay fit.
Research has shown that up to 40 per cent of dementia cases could be avoided by tackling these modifiable, lifestyle-related factors.
Neil Fullerton, campaign co-ordinator, said: “Many factors can affect our brain’s health throughout life.
“Some of these we can’t control, but many things we can influence by making positive choices.”