Football authorities are "in denial" over the link between heading a ball and serious brain injury, according to the family of Chesterfield FC’s all-time leading goalscorer.

Ernie Moss, 67, is still held in the highest esteem by fans of the Derbyshire club, but over recent years he has succumbed to the onset of dementia, which has now severely limited his speech and ability to interact.

He only ever leaves his home to go to watch Chesterfield play and needs round-the-clock care from his family.

They are convinced the years of heading a heavy ball and persistent head injuries have led to his condition and draw parallels with other cases where footballers have developed serious brain conditions.

His wife, Jenny Moss, told Sky News: I can’t tell you how many times he has been stitched up around his eyes … they used to go off the pitch get stitched up, shirts covered in blood and go back on and that was the norm.

She believes her husband would have played on, even if he had known the risks, but added: We had so many plans for our retirement … It just makes me so sad to know he can’t interact with his grandchildren.

Mr Moss’ daughter, Nikki Trueman, told Sky News: I think football as a whole is burying its head in the sand – they are in denial – because they are scared that it will lead to loads of compensation.

We actually don’t want that because it won’t make Dad get better.

She would like the FA, the Premier League and PFA to consider funding a specialist centre to offer bespoke care for former professionals.

Mrs Trueman added: To be dumping them into an old people’s home is wrong, they need a specialist facility.

Football has got so much money in it at the moment, we would just like somewhere where he can be cared for properly as he deteriorates so that my mum doesn’t have to sell her home.

New research suggests a connection between heading and dementia, but stops short of proving a conclusive link.

The UCL study performed a post-mortem examination on the brains of six former footballers with dementia, who had played for an average 26 years.

It found four had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – caused by repeated blows to the head – and all had signs of Alzheimer’s.

CTE can cause dementia and is characterised by a build-up of an abnormal protein that kills brain cells.

The study only looked at 14 ex-players, but scientists say it shows more research is urgently needed to pin down any potential link.

Twelve of the case studies eventually died of advanced dementia.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Don Williams, who set up the research, said: The results suggest that heading the ball over many years, a form of repetitive sub-concussive head injury, can result in the development of CTE and dementia.

Dr Helen Ling, lead author of the UCL study, cautioned that it was unknown how many of the players would have developed Alzheimer’s anyway, due to old age.

The scientists also stressed that the dementia risk for recreational footballers was extremely low.

(c) Sky News 2017: Football ‘in denial’ over link between heading and brain injury