Soccer-Footballs should be sold with health warning, says dementia expert

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Women - Semifinal - Australia v Sweden - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - August 2, 2021. Ball boy wearing gloves holds a ball before the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

(Reuters) - The risk of developing neurodegenerative disease in former professional soccer players varies by position and career length but not by playing era, according to a landmark study.

Research from Professor Willie Stewart, who leads the FIELD (Football's Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk) study, previously found that former footballers are 3.5 times more likely to die with dementia than the general public.

New research has shown that outfield players were four times more likely to be diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease with the risk being highest among defenders, who are five times more likely to have dementia than non-footballers.

The study, which compared health records of 7,676 Scottish male players, found that the risk increased with the length of their careers, but the findings remained the same for players regardless of the era in which they competed.

"With the current data, we're now at the point to suggest that football should be sold with a health warning saying repeated heading in football may lead to an increased risk of dementia," Stewart said.

"The data from this paper is the missing link in trying to understand this connection between sport and dementia... There is no other proposed risk factor and this is one we could really address and eliminate this disease.

"I think football has to ask the difficult questions: is heading absolutely necessary to the game of football? Is potential exposure to degenerative brain disease absolutely necessary? Or can some other form of the game be considered?"

Last week, the Football Association (FA), Premier League and other governing bodies announced guidelines limiting "high-impact" headers to 10 per week in training from the 2021-22 season. [L4N2P424K]

Stewart criticised the rules, which were implemented as a precautionary measure, arguing they were based on "unscientific guesswork".

"There is no basis on which to say 10 headers of a certain level will somehow produce no risk or even make a great difference to risk. It is a best guesstimate and we would have to wait 30 or 40 years to see the impact," he said.

The research, funded by the FA and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), was conducted by the University of Glasgow and published in the journal JAMA Neurology on Monday.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

Next In Football

Soccer-Kerr at the double as Chelsea rout United in WSL
Soccer-Juventus' Dybala and Morata ruled out of Chelsea clash – Allegri
Soccer-Joy and tears for Dybala as Juventus beat Sampdoria in first home win
Soccer-Former France international Nasri hangs up his boots
Soccer-Matildas to play at home after 18 months in Brazil series
Soccer-Man United's Fernandes vows to bounce back after penalty miss
Soccer-Guedes double against old club gives Corinthians derby win
Soccer-Real frustrated at home by Villarreal
Soccer-Gueye's goal inspires PSG to Montpellier win
Soccer-More pressure in third division than before Rome Derby - Lazio's Sarri

Stories You'll Enjoy