JOSEPHINE SUTTON: Heading footballs gave my husband Mike brain damage

JOSEPHINE SUTTON: The specialist said my husband Mike had severe brain damage caused by heading footballs… if he had any realisation of what dementia has reduced him to now, I know he would feel humiliated

  • Sportsmail is launching a campaign to try and end brain disease within football
  • Mike Sutton, the father of ex-striker Chris, is a former footballer with dementia
  • Mike’s wife, Josephine, has opened up about her and her husband’s struggles  

My Mike was a proud man with so much dignity. If he had any realisation of what dementia has reduced him to now, I know he would feel humiliated.

When we met in 1964, football was Mike’s life. He was playing for his hometown club Norwich City, having left school at 15 to pursue a career as a professional.

After cruciate ligament damage at 27, Mike attended Loughborough University, earning a double-first class honours degree in biology and physical education. He became a PE teacher, and was always so kind to those who had not had the best of luck in life.

Chris Sutton (left)’s mother has spoken to Sportsmail about her husband’s dementia struggles 

He ran extracurricular activities, coached for Norwich and was a wonderful father to Ian, Rachel, Lucy, John and Chris, too.

Now 76, he is in a care home, nearing the end. Other families in similar situations to ours will recognise the stages of Mike’s regression since 2010. 

There was general forgetfulness; failing to remember family and friends’ names. Sudden and irrational loss of temper; shouting, throwing things, punching walls and doors. Forgetting normally familiar routes when driving, cycling and walking.

Mike was persuaded to see a doctor, who banned him from driving. He’d been diagnosed with dementia, and I had to sell the car as he kept insisting he could drive.

Josephine Sutton (right) has discussed the symptoms that husband Mike (left) is showing

We went to see a specialist who said he had severe frontal and temporal lobe damage — caused by heading footballs and blows to the head.

He was told: ‘You are not the first professional footballer to come through that door and you won’t be the last.’

This was in 2014. The fits of temper increased and with them the use of bad language.

The outside doors had to be double-locked to stop Mike going out and getting lost. He would follow me around all day long as I was doing housework or cooking — it seemed he needed to know I was always close by.

He became delusional and paranoid, thinking there were other people in our home. Mike was not able to find the toilet, so during the night I’d set an alarm for 1.30am, 4am and 6am to take him.

Even so, I would find puddles of urine in different places. I had to become a kind of mother figure to Mike as he didn’t know how to wash or dress himself.

Mike Sutton (left) is a former footballer with both his sons Chris (right) and John also players

I feared for my own sanity and had suicidal thoughts at times so we could finish our lives together.

He used to love writing in his diary. Then one day, he found he didn’t know how to use a pen and never wrote another word.

He retained his physical skills. When playing short tennis, he never hit a ball out of court or into the net! But when looking at photographs, Mike might recognise himself in his younger days, but not pictures of himself when older.

The agitation and aggression began to be directed at me, and our children insisted that it was time for Mike to go into care. I felt I was abandoning him. It is heartbreaking having to leave a loved one behind in a care home.

Mike is well looked after — his amazing carers are so kind to him — but it has come at a price. Savings have almost disappeared to cover costs.

In March, before the initial lockdown, he still had a life, seeing family and friends, being with others in the home’s coffee shop and going out for walks, playing table tennis.

The rules which ‘officialdom’ have placed on care homes have reduced him now to lying in bed, with a loss of mobility which will never return.

I am the only one allowed to visit — and that is very hard for our family and friends who have not set eyes on Mike since March 16.

Mike cannot walk any more, and I hoped he might spend his final days looking out on the garden of the home we shared for more than four decades. But the reality is two qualified carers have to be on call at all times for his complicated nursing needs. 

So it is in the care home where we will ultimately lose Mike, without his family and friends getting to say a proper goodbye.


ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Sportsmail launches campaign to tackle football’s dementia scandal amid a growing number of former players affected by brain disease

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ‘He’s a shell, he can’t get up… he’s just lying in a nappy’: Chris Sutton opens up to Martin Samuel on his former footballer dad’s battle with dementia and how the game is turning a blind eye 

MARTIN SAMUEL: Headaches after just eight games? Thiago Silva’s revelation about ‘non-stop aerial duels’ should have set alarm bells ringing… is it too much to ask to explore this conversation to its logical end?

EXCLUSIVE: Football could soon be FORCED to introduce rules to tackle the risk of brain injury by the Government as MP admits he is ‘amazed’ that authorities have not faced a lawsuit over inaction 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ‘Losing the momentum we had would have been unthinkable’: Dr Willie Stewart warns his crucial research into the link between dementia and football cannot go to waste

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ‘It was fury that drove me at the start’: Tireless campaigner Dawn Astle, daughter of former West Brom forward Jeff, wants brain degeneration in footballers to be declared an industrial disease

RICHARD THOMPSON – SURREY CHAIRMAN: Dementia is Britain’s biggest killer and something must be done… the cost of care, support and helping people must be a priority  

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article