Dementia research: Ex-professional footballers at risk from headers wanted for brain study

·2-min read

Professional footballers are more than three times likely to die of neurodegenerative diseases - so researchers are looking for ex-players to help with a new study.

They are looking to recruit 120 middle-aged, former professional footballers as part of a £1.3 million four-year study into the brain health of the group.

The BrainHope project will build on the discoveries of the Field study in 2019 which found that professional footballers were three and a half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative diseases than age-matched members of the general population.

It will use brain imaging and a range of tests to compare brain health in mid-life former footballers to general population control subjects already recruited to the Prevent Dementia study.

Researchers will also explore whether any differences in brain health among footballers might benefit from management of known dementia risk factors designed to try and reduce their risk.

The study will be led by the University of Glasgow, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and the wider PREVENT Dementia research collaborators.

Professor Willie Stewart, BrainHope lead, consultant neuropathologist and honorary professor at the University of Glasgow, described it as an "incredibly important study" and that they were grateful for support from the Football Association (FA) and FIFA.

He said: "Our findings from the Field study show there is reason to worry about lifelong brain health in former footballers.

"BrainHope is designed to identify tests that might detect problems early on and, more importantly, possible ways to try and reduce dementia risk for former footballers."

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The BrainHope study will recruit 120 former professional footballers aged 40-59 years and study their brains with scans and tests over a two year period.

Charlotte Cowie, head of performance medicine at the FA, described the study as "another important step in building our understanding of the long-term health of former professional footballers".

She added: "Forming part of the wider Prevent Dementia study, this research will help us further understand the links between the game and neurodegenerative diseases and also potential early interventions which could help reduce risk or speed of developing dementia."

Former professional football players interested in participating in the research are asked to contact https://preventdementia.co.uk/prevent-sports/

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