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Ex-Everton captain Mick Lyons diagnosed with Alzheimer's blamed on headers by doctors

By Paul Byrne

Former Everton captain Mick Lyons has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

And doctors say the brain damage was caused by the constant heading of balls. Lyons, 70, said: "I loved heading the ball. I’d go up for all the corners. When you headed it, it was thud, thud, thud. I used to get quite a few stitches in the face through heading."

"My memory has not been fantastic over the years. I think, ‘What did I do then?’ but I just get through OK. I don’t worry at all about it. To me, it was part of the job.”

The former central defender added he does not want heading banned from football but he does think it could be restricted in training. He said: "We used to do lots in training but it is part of the game that we love. There’s nothing better than seeing the wingers going down the line and crossing it and the centre forward heading it into the top corner.

"That’s excitement. That’s what the game is all about. I just loved playing football, especially for Everton Football Club."

Lyons’ daughter Francesca first noticed his condition when people would come up to him and he did not remember who they were.

She said: "He says it’s from heading the ball but he remembers everything from years back – football matches and scores."

Lyons made 473 appearances for Everton between 1970 and 1982, scoring 59 goals. He later played for Sheffield Wednesday, was player-manager at Grimsby Town and coached in Brunei and Australia, where he now lives. His family became concerned after his 68th birthday and arranged tests in Australia.

Francesca said: “He had scans. The professor said it was repeated heading of the ball. They can see brain damage from the impact. He’s still a big, strong, fit man.

“He still likes to call himself an athlete and has his sense of humour. His memory is just not the best. He’s got a lovely life out there but I’m concerned about the future.”

Lyons was an iconic player for Everton during the 1970s (Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

She added there are lots of pictures of her dad with blood pouring down his face during games.

Francesca said: "He gave it his all for the clubs he played for. I feel sad knowing the situation now but it’s also nice to know so many fans still care. I sometimes put a picture of my dad on Twitter. He is obviously still very popular which makes me really proud."

It is believed more than 600 former players have dementia. This week the Mirror told how the Professional Footballers’ Association urged the families of those affected to come forward.

The PFA hopes to convince the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council to class the brain condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is caused by repeated blows to the head, as a work-related disease so relatives can claim benefits.

PFA chief Maheta Molango said: “Former footballers and their families need help now. These conversations need to result in tangible support and, crucially, significant funding.

“It’s our responsibility to challenge the industry to ensure the wellbeing of players past and present is being protected.”

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