How heading caused Saints star Kevin Moore to die from dementia at 55

‘He loved heading, but it cost him everything… at the age of just 48 he’d forgotten how to sit down’: Former Southampton star Kevin Moore died from dementia on his 55th birthday

  • Ex-Southampton and Grimsby defender Kevin Moore loved to head the ball 
  • The former footballer passed away with Pick’s Disease on his 55th birthday 
  • What made Moore the defender he was ended up costing him everything
  • Sportsmail launched an appeal to look into links between football and dementia

Few who ever saw Kevin Moore play football will forget his aerial majesty. 

Supporters of Southampton will recall his headed goal in a Wembley final. Those at Grimsby, his dominance in the air over a decade of service in central defence.

‘Kev had great spring and he absolutely loved heading footballs,’ recalled his brother Dave. ‘It was a big part of what made him what he was as a footballer. He was great in the air, an aggressive header of the ball.

Kevin Moore (left) was renowned for heading the ball but it ended up costing him everything

‘When he ran out on the pitch, he would jump and touch his shoulder against the crossbar. See the Wembley goal, he’s up above the bar, heading it down into the top corner.

‘We spent hours practising as kids and young professionals at Grimsby. There was a ball on a string behind the stands and we’d go there in the afternoons and head it for hours. Me and Kev, Terry Donovan, Kevin Drinkell, loads of us. They don’t do it any more, and that’s a good thing.’

Dave Moore is the head physio at Grimsby Town, where he started his professional career before moving on to play for Carlisle and Blackpool, among others. His father Roy and uncle Norman represented the Mariners.

In 2013, Kevin died on his 55th birthday of Pick’s Disease, a form of frontotemporal dementia

So too, his younger brother Andy, but it was elder brother Kevin who reached the heights, playing in the top flight for Saints and scoring in the Zenith Data Systems Cup final at Wembley in 1992, before ending his career at Fulham aged 38.

In 2013, Kevin died on his 55th birthday of Pick’s Disease, also known as frontotemporal dementia, having spent the final years of his life in a care home.

His story leaps out from the dozens of footballers who have lived with different forms of dementia and brain disease.

Not only was he so young but he played in the Premier League era. He was not heading the old leather ball of the 1960s, he was playing with Alan Shearer and Matt Le Tissier. 

‘We’ve tried to look back as a family to find the first signs,’ said Dave, manager of Scunthorpe in the mid-1990s and a qualified physio for nearly 20 years.

‘Strange little things at first. He carried a toilet bag on a walk around Paris with Les, another of our brothers. He said he didn’t want to leave it in the room. He became obsessive. He reset his watch all the time. Every time he got in the car he reset the clock.’

Alarm bells rang for Kevin’s wife Mandy, a nurse, when she realised he was unable to find his way to places he knew well in Southampton and started to miss work appointments. He was a qualified chartered surveyor. 

‘He went for MRI scans and in combination with the behaviour the neurologist said he was suffering from Pick’s Disease,’ Dave added. ‘From there, the deterioration was horrible. 

‘He went for a picnic with Mandy and their children, Tom and Sophie, and Kev didn’t know how to sit down on the ground.

‘They had to do the classic, Tom kneeling down behind him as they pushed him over, torn between laughing and crying. If you didn’t laugh you would have cried the whole time — 48 years old and he’d forgotten how to sit down.’

Heartbreak mingled with their affection for a game central to their lives, and the reaction of the PFA, who sent Mandy a letter in 2008, explaining with little sympathy how they could not afford to foot the bill for up to a thousand members in need of care.

Pressure is on the PFA’s Gordon Taylor (above) to look at links between football and dementia

‘They could have done more, considering the evidence,’ said Dave. ‘You’re three-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a neuro-degenerative disease (than somebody who did not play football). 

‘Football has to look carefully into more studies, more care, more protocols for safety and the PFA definitely can help. In the family, we discussed the fact Kev headed thousands of footballs. 

‘He played until he was 38, heading balls consecutively for over 20 years. He played about 800 professional games.

‘Without question he suffered concussions. He broke his cheekbone in a clash of heads at Sheffield United and, coming off the coach on the way home, he didn’t know where we’d been or who we’d been playing. In those days, it was get back on and finish the game. 

Sportsmail is leading a campaign to appeal to football over an investigation into dementia links

‘I’m not blaming the staff, that’s what we did. Concussion protocol is miles better than it was. Any doubt with a head injury, and we sit them out, 14 days off and a gradual return to play, and every manager I’ve worked with accepts that 100 per cent.’

Chris Nicholl, Kevin’s central defensive partner when Grimsby finished fifth in Division Two in 1983-84 and his manager at Southampton, was another who relished the aerial battle and has been living with dementia. 

Matt Tees, a Grimsby legend who died last month aged 81, had dementia. So did Don Donovan and George McLean, who both played with Tees at Blundell Park.

Others made a career out of heading the ball and escaped these types of health problems.

‘This is my dilemma,’ said Dave, 60. ‘I don’t know what Jeff Astle or Kev would say. You can’t speak for other people. 

Former West Brom striker Jeff Astle (above) was one of the first dementia cases in football

‘But I know Kev took tremendous pleasure from playing football and heading. Take it away and the game will lose out, massively. It wouldn’t be football, it finishes the sport as we know it.

‘Heading is a wonderful skill. It is one of the things people love to see and you can’t say it’s not in the game any more because Cristiano Ronaldo is a brilliant header of the ball. 

‘Yes, it is a lighter ball but it is travelling twice as fast, and it is the repeated small blows that cause damage.

‘But Kev paid a heavy price for it. The gift that made him an exceptional player was a contributing factor in what killed him at 55. 

‘The thing that made him what he was ended up costing him everything.’

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