My biggest fight to tackle dementia, by King Denis08/20/2021
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In a moving statement he said: “This will not be an easy journey, especially for the people who love you the most.”
With a flash of characteristic humour, Denis – a famously good header of the ball – added: “The time has come to tackle this head on, excuse the pun.”
Denis, who said he is no longer able to sign items for fans, becomes the sixth member of the 1968 United squad to be diagnosed with dementia.
The former Scottish international said: “I am at the point where I feel I want to be open about my condition.
“I have been diagnosed with ‘mixed dementia’…in my case this being Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. It is an incredibly challenging and problematic disease.”
He added: “You get angry, frustrated, confused and then worried. Worried for your family, as they will be the ones dealing with it.
“However, the time has come to tackle this head on, excuse the pun. I recognise my brain is deteriorating and how my memory evades me when I don’t want it to and how this causes me distress in situations beyond my control.
“I do understand what is happening and that is why I want to address my situation now whilst I am able because I know there will be days when I don’t understand and I hate the thought of that.
“I don’t want people to be saddened if I forget places, people or dates because you need to remember I enjoyed all those memories and I am lucky to have experienced what I have in my life…a loving and supportive family, a great career doing what I loved and getting paid to do it, and lifelong friends.
“I have good days and bad days and aim to take each day as it comes. I hung up my football boots a long time ago and now it’s time to put my signing days behind me too, so apologies to anyone who has sent me anything but I’m just not able.”
Denis also said he hoped to go on watching Man United – and to con invo continue his involvement with Denis Law Legacy Trust, his charity which “supports young people to be confident, capable, and responsible citizens”.
He added: “I know the road ahead will be hard, demanding, painful and ever changing and so I ask for understanding and patience as this will not be an easy journey especially for the people who love you the most.”
Aberdeen-born Denis had spells at Huddersfield, Manchester City and Torino before joining Manchester United in 1962. He scored 237 goals in 404 appearances for the club.
He was capped 55 times for Scotland and remains their joint top scorer on 30 goals.
Denis is immortalised in the United Trinity statue outside Old Trafford – alongside Bobby Charlton and the late George Best. He and wife Diana have five children: Diana, Gary, Andrew, Robert and Iain.
He was appointed CBE in 2016 for his services to football and charity and has called on fans to support his daughter who is tackling The Thames Bridges Trek on September 11 to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.
Denis said the charity had offered him support and was a lifeline to thousands of families who were also facing a diagnosis. United called Law “one of this club’s greatest legends”, adding: “We know our fans will also rally behind him. We applaud Denis’s brave words and will continue to offer whatever support we can as he adapts to this challenging condition.”
An Alzheimer’s Society study in 2019 led by the University of Glasgow revealed that former professional footballers had a three and a half times higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease than expected.
The charity noted that while some research suggests brain trauma may increase the risk of dementia, the study did not say if heading the ball was involved.
- To support Di’s fundraising, visit www.justgiving.com/thelawman
Many former top players are also battling the disease
Denis Law is among many former footballers battling dementia.
The ordeal of England great Sir Bobby Charlton, 83, was made public last November amid family hopes it would raise awareness.
Gordon Cowans, 62, a European Cup winner with Aston Villa, was diagnosed with early onset dementia in March last year.
In August 2017 ex-Aberdeen boss Jimmy Calderwood, 66, said he had early onset dementia and last year was said to be “coping”.
Others include former Northern Ireland international Chris Nicholl, 74, Scotland stalwart Gordon McQueen, 69, ex-Rangers striker Jimmy Millar, 86, and Burnley hero Jimmy Robson, 82.
Dave Watson, 74, capped 65 times by England, has a neurodegenerative disease similar to what killed West Brom legend Jeff Astle in 2002.
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