Heading the football puts players at increased risk of traumatic brain injuries with devastating consequences.
Rabat – Football players are much more likely to get dementia and five times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than the general population, according to a study released Monday, October 21, by Glasgow University.
The lead researcher in the study, neuropathologist William Stewart, said, “Risk ranged from a five-fold increase in Alzheimer’s disease, through an approximately four-fold increase in motor neurone disease, to a two-fold Parkinson’s disease in former professional footballers compared to population controls,” according to a BBC Sport report.
The Glasgow study, called “Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk” (FIELD), looked at 7,676 professional football players active between 1900 and 1976 in comparison to 23,000 other people.
Earlier this year, Don Williams, who has researched the connection between dementia and playing football for decades, called on sports authorities to ban heading in football for children and “curtailing this component of the game among adults.”
Stewart emphasized that “every effort must be made to identify the factors contributing to the increased risk of neurodegenerative disease to allow this risk to be reduced,” the BBC noted.
The researcher went on to say that “there are also wider potential health benefits of playing football to be considered.”
The FIELD study found that football players had a lower risk of dying from other diseases that plague the general population, including heart disease and some cancers.
England’s Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association funded the study. In response to the study’s results, the Football Association relayed the findings of an independently chaired Medical and Football Advisory Group. The group found “there is not enough evidence at this stage to make other changes to the way the modern-day game is played.”
The Football Association noted that former football players live on average more than three years longer than the general population.
In 2017, a Drake Foundation study of the brains of 14 former football players found that the average age of onset of dementia was before the player’s 64th birthday. Twelve of the study’s subjects showed signs of “behavioral changes,” and 10 displayed increased aggression and “explosivity.”