Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge admits dementia and Alzheimer’s are a growing concern for players of his generation as the “damage has been done”.
The 65-year-old said a number of Anfield greats who had died in recent years had shown signs of being affected and there were currently four “proper Liverpool legends” having problems with the conditions.
One of those is former captain Ron Yeats, aged 86, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago.
Aldridge himself has undergone tests but admits there is little he can do at this stage of his life.
“The damage has been done,” he told the PA news agency.
“I headed the ball as much as anyone else, I just used to love heading the ball, practising every day.
“We trained with the heavier balls and we’d stay behind after training and head it 50 or 60 times.
“I’ve had some problems myself and I had some tests. But I’m not worried about myself as much as worried about my family because we’ve all seen what these illnesses do to the people around you who suffer more.”
This week legal teams representing more than a dozen players, including the family of England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles who died with dementia in 2020, appeared in the High Court in London for the first hearing in their claims against the Football Association, the English Football League, the Football Association of Wales and the International Football Association Board for brain injuries allegedly suffered during their careers.
Lawyers for the Stiles family have previously claimed the sporting bodies did not take adequate action to reduce heading the ball in training and during matches.
Aldridge was one of a number of former Liverpool players who last month helped launch the new LFC Memories app, part-funded by the LFC Foundation, which uses sights and sounds from the club’s illustrious history to help fans living with dementia and is the first of its kind to be developed directly with a professional football club.
But the ex-Republic of Ireland striker, who scored 60 goals across the 1987-88 and 88-89 seasons for the Reds, said some of the club’s greats were struggling themselves.
“It seems of the lads that have passed away from the 50s, 60s and some 70s who were my heroes, 70 to 80 per cent had dementia or Alzheimer’s problems as well as the illness that took them,” he said.
“We’ve got four ex-players and proper Liverpool legends who have problems with it now. These are people who made Liverpool great and why we are where we are.”
Aldridge is chairman of the former players’ association Forever Reds, which raised £75,000 for ex-footballers and local good causes with a Christmas dinner attended by 500 guests at Anfield last month.
“We help our ex-players in any way we can. We are doing it now with two great players of the past,” he said.