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Former Gillingham footballer Rod Taylor died of football-related brain injury

By Chris Hunter

The family of former Gillingham footballer Rod Taylor are backing calls for more research into football-related brain injury.

He died in April and subsequent tests revealed he was suffering from dementia with Lewy bodies and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can only be caused by head trauma.

Mr Taylor is the second footballer to be identified with CTE after former England striker Jeff Astle, whose death led to the establishment of the Jeff Astle Foundation, which is driving for a better understanding of sport-related head injuries.

Ex Gillingham footballer Rod Taylor's family have backed calls for more research into football-related brain injuries. Stock image
Ex Gillingham footballer Rod Taylor's family have backed calls for more research into football-related brain injuries. Stock image

The ex Gillingham player began his career as a ground staff boy at Portsmouth in 1958, before signing his first professional contract with the club in 1961.

He moved to the Medway club in July 1963, spending three years at Priestfield.

Wife Penny said donating his brain for research had been a difficult decision.

“It was an awful decision, dreadful,” said Mrs Taylor.

“We were heartbroken by the whole thing. I don’t think anyone in our family will get over this because it was horrific.

“Rod didn’t know what was happening to him. It was different to dementia - it moved much quicker.

“People with Alzheimer’s can go on for years. Rod went downhill so fast, there was nothing anyone could do to help him.

“He didn’t know us in the end and couldn’t speak; but people that knew him and his character - they knew that he always had a lot to say.

"We were heartbroken... I don't think anyone in our family will get over this because it was horrific" - Penny Taylor

“This is why we’re so keen for the scientists to carry on their work.”

As well as backing research, the Taylor family has joined The Jeff Astle Foundation in calling for certain dementias among players to be recognised as an industrial disease, and campaigning for more resources to be given towards care for former players and their families.

Mrs Taylor remains optimistic changes in football mean youngsters are better protected.

“The difference now is they know more about sports medicine,” she said.

“Back then they were heading medicine balls and things like that.

“In those days they were not really aware of the dangers.

"Now we know children under 12 shouldn’t be heading the ball.

"They’re not using leather footballs that get wet and muddy - it’s different.

“It’s important we help all these old players.”

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