By Harry Mottram: Bath City FC have announced their striker Alex Fletcher has left the club to join the Professional Football Association (PFA) as part of their health education team specialising in brain health. The role makes a lot of sense as the player suffered head injuries when he crashed in a concrete wall at Twerton Park during a match a year ago against Dulwich Hamlet in the National League South.
He had chased what he had described as a lost cause ball, made contact with a defender before falling and colliding with the wall that surrounds part of the pitch. The match was abandoned as para medics, colleagues, staff and club officials tended to him. He was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol where he finally passed out and was operated on to remove fluid and a small piece of bone from his skull. It was touch and go after he was put into a coma to help him heal and to reduce swelling. After a week he woke to find he was still seriously injured with a possibility he might never play football again – let alone walk.
He praised the work of neurosurgeon Dr Neil Barua and the NHS for their work in saving his life. The extraordinary part of the story is his recovery – physiotherapy combined with encouragement from family, friends and his fiancé Ellie all helped his motivation as he had to learn how to walk again. Incredibly it appears his brain functions are fine although he has concerns long term – but it has given him considerable experience of brain injuries and their effects which he will now in working for the PFA education team.
Bath City FC put out a statement tonight (Wednesday, November 8, 2023) that confirmed he was leaving the club – having returned to playing briefly this season. They said: “We can confirm that Alex Fletcher has departed the club. We’re all immeasurably proud of Alex’s achievements and we wish him, and his family, all the best for the future. So many words but for now, we just want to say thank you. 72 Appearances 28 Goals 10 Assists Thank you, Fletch.”
Alex Fletcher said: “Fittingly, I’ve started a new role this week with the PFA, where I’ll be working on the Brain Health team delivering education to the English Football League and Barclays Womens Super League clubs around improving brain health for our member.”
Brain damage caused by playing sport has become a major issue – not just in football but other contact sports such as both codes of rugby. Heading the ball is one area that has been a concern although the old leather laced balls have been replaced by lighter balls – but consistent contact is a worry. The PFA have looked to educate the sport and its players. The PFA is pushing for a ‘transformational change in football’s approach to the brain health of current and former professional footballers’.
The union’s focus is on the following areas: Develop a culture of positive brain health for players across football. Enhance the quality of life for players living with neurodegenerative disease.
To achieve this, they are: Leading English football’s stakeholders into establishing a brain health support fund to provide tailored support and care for former players affected by dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. Lobbying the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council to designate sport-caused neurodegeneration as an industrial disease. Supporting former players and their families with access to brain health services such as our Admiral Nurse Clinic, memories clubs, legal support, and much more. Funding and promoting research focused on improving current and former players brain health, including brain donation. Pushing football’s stakeholders, both internationally and domestically, to safeguard player brain health in both matches and training. Educating players, clubs, and coaches about the need to protect the brain health of players during training and matches. Developing a specialist concussion service to support current players to manage concussion more effectively.
Clearly Alex Fletcher will be part of this push to improve the chances of players in not being affected by brain injuries – usually through heading the ball or a clash of heads with another player. The Bath City fans have been quick to show their admiration for him with an outpouring of support for his new career online with one saying perhaps fittingly for a support that Alex is ‘Forever a Roman.’
From Newport in South Wales Alex began his footballing career for Plymouth with stints at Torquay, Aldershot and Tiverton before signing for Bath in 2021. Now just 24 years of age he will begin a new career in what is arguably a more important role with the PFA.
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