Manchester United and Scotland great Denis Law has been diagnosed with dementia.
The 81-year-old says he has ‘mixed dementia’, which is more than one type of dementia.
In Law’s case, he says his illness is a mix between Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
Law is not alone in battling the condition, with the Football Association supporting two ongoing research studies examining ex-professionals for early signs of neurocognitive degeneration.
England World Cup winners Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters are among those to have died from the disease.
Law is immortalised in the United Trinity statue outside of Old Trafford alongside the late George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton, who it was confirmed in November has also been diagnosed with dementia.
Here’s what Alzheimer’s, mixed dementia and vascular dementia mean after Law’s diagnosis.
What is dementia?
According to the NHS, dementia is the name for a group of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning.
Symptoms can start off small and may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.
For example, a person might forget the name of a place they’ve visited or a conversation they’ve had.
A person with dementia may also experience changes in their mood or behaviour which can become severe enough to affect daily life.
Alzheimer’s disease is the physical disease that affects the brain.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood - though the disease is most common in people over the age of 65 and is a progressive condition over many years.
A number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition; like when a person’s brain is damaged by diseases, family history of the condition, a series of strokes, a person’s age and untreated depression.
The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that is causing the dementia.
What is vascular dementia?
According to the Alzehimer’s Society - vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease.
It affects about 150,000 people in the UK and is similar in nature to Alzheimer’s disease but symptoms occur when the brain is damaged because of problems with the supply of blood to the brain.
For vascular dementia, treatments and lifestyle changes may also slow down the progression of the underlying disease.
What has Denis Law said?
“I am at the point where I feel I want to be open about my condition,” Law said in a statement.
“I have been diagnosed with ‘mixed dementia’, which is more than one type of dementia, in my case this being Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.
“This has been an extremely difficult year for everyone and the long periods of isolation have certainly not helped.
“It is an incredibly challenging and problematic disease and I have witnessed many friends go through this.
“You hope that it won’t happen to you, even make jokes about it whilst ignoring the early signs because you don’t want it to be true.
“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 how 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 that are 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 right now.
“In the height of the pandemic I said I hoped that if one positive was to come out of it, it would be that it would make people kinder to each other, so that’s what I am hoping for now.
“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 adjusting my lifestyle accordingly.
“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 am just not able.
“I am trying to be positive and determined to continue watching my club, Manchester United at Old Trafford, hopefully this will be a season of success and I am excited by the new signings that Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) and the club have made.
“Also where possible I would like to continue my involvement with the ‘Denis Law Legacy Trust’, the work the staff and volunteers do in the community is amazing and it makes a real difference.
“I know the road ahead will be hard, demanding, painful and ever changing and so ask for understanding and patience as this will not be an easy journey especially for the people who love you the most.
“My daughter, Di, is completing ‘The Thames Bridges Trek’ on the 11th September to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society so if you can please donate at www.justgiving.com/thelawman.
“As a family, we have been offered support by Alzheimer’s Society and have chosen to fundraise for the charity to help support its crucial work.
“Alzheimer’s Society’s services have never been in more need, used over 5.5 million times since March 2020, and are a lifeline to thousands of families who are also facing a dementia diagnosis.
“The charity is also doing amazing work with the sports industry, with its Sport United Against Dementia campaign, which I fully support. This really could make the biggest difference to former players, players, and fans alike.”
Those wishing to donate can make a contribution to the Alzheimer’s Society.