U.S. Soccer legend Bruce Murray reveals he has cognitive changes at 56 consistent with CTE
Hall of Famer calls for increased support for former players, heading ban until age 14
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(BOSTON) – National Soccer Hall of Famer Bruce Murray, 56, revealed today to CBS News he is struggling with cognitive impairment and behavior changes consistent with what is seen in individuals diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after death. He and his wife Lynn Murray are going public with their struggles to help others suffering know they are not alone, and to raise awareness about the dangers of repetitive heading in soccer.
Murray was the all-time leading scorer in U.S. Men's National Team (USMNT) history when a concussion forced him to retire in 1995. He was a key member of the 1988 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team and the 1990 U.S. World Cup Team and is known for his spectacular ability to score off headers. He has been experiencing progressive neurological symptoms for the last decade.
“My symptoms started with what I thought was normal forgetfulness but have gotten to the point where I’ve left my car running with the keys inside several times in one day,” Murray said. “I’m fearful there’s now a very real chance I’ll leave my children in the backseat and forget them too.”
Murray is speaking out just one week after the family of former USMNT and MLS player Scott Vermillion announced his stage 2 CTE diagnosis by Dr. Ann McKee at the Boston University CTE Center. Vermillion is the first former MLS player diagnosed with the disease.
“We appreciate Bruce and Lynn Murray’s courage in sharing their diagnosis and encourage the many other former players we know are struggling to reach out to the Concussion Legacy Foundation HelpLine for support,” said Dr. Chris Nowinski, CLF co-founder and CEO. “Thanks to the Murray and Vermillion families, we can learn from the mistakes of the past to change the future for the millions of children still heading soccer balls with no idea that it could lead to CTE.”
A dementia crisis tied to repetitive heading has been discovered among professional soccer players in the United Kingdom, as dozens of former players and families have revealed debilitating symptoms in the last few years. A 2019 University of Glasgow study found former professional Scottish soccer players were 3.5 times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases than the general population. A follow-up study in 2021 found the only position that didn’t have an increased risk of brain diseases was goalie, isolating repetitive heading as the most likely cause.
Bruce Murray supports CLF’s Safer Soccer campaign, which launched in 2014 alongside USWNT legends Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone, and Taylor Twellman, to educate parents, coaches, and soccer stakeholders on the benefits of delaying headers in youth soccer until high school. Murray is now reigniting the call on U.S. Soccer to raise the ban on heading in the youth game until at least age 14 and accelerate efforts to minimize lifelong exposure to headers in older players.
“There is absolutely no reason for these kids to be heading the ball hundreds of times in a season,” said Murray, a former Harvard University men’s soccer coach. “I feel a responsibility to speak up and make sure nobody else has to go through what I’m experiencing.”
Former players and their families battling concussion or suspected CTE symptoms can reach out to The Concussion Legacy Foundation HelpLine at CLFHelpline.org.
To accelerate research on CTE diagnosis and treatment, CLF encourages former soccer players over the age of 40, who played at any level, to enroll in the online Head Impact & Trauma Surveillance Study (HITSS) at HITSS.org. The study is open to both men and women and led by researchers at Boston University and the University of California San Francisco.
About Bruce Murray
Bruce Murray was an essential part of U.S. Men’s National Team from 1985 to 1993. When he retired, he was the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Murray was a member of the 1988 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team and the 1990 U.S. World Cup Team, where he was the only American to score and assist a goal. Murray played professionally for nine years, including two seasons in the English Premier League for Millwall. Murray won two National Championships at Clemson University and earned the Hermann Trophy, awarded to college soccer’s top player. Murray was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 1993 and elected to The National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2011.