Dementia risk greatest for advocates, new research finds
Defenders are more likely to suffer from dementia later in life compared to other playing positions in football, new research shows.
But his new research indicates that the risk is highest among defenders, who are five times more likely to suffer from dementia than non-footballers.
This compares to three times the risk for forwards, and almost no additional risk for goalkeepers compared to the population.
Field players were four times more likely to have a brain disease such as dementia.
Research from the University of Glasgow, funded by the Football Association and players ‘union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, also found that risk increases the longer a player’s football career is long.
And despite changes in football technology and the management of head injuries in recent years, there was no evidence that the risk of neurodegenerative disease changed for footballers in this study, whose career spanned. from around 1930 to the late 1990s.
“Footballs must be sold with a management health warning”
Study author and consultant neuropathologist Dr Stewart said it was time for football to eliminate the risk of heading, which he said could also lead to short-term impairment of brain function.
“I think soccer balls should be sold with a health warning that a repeated title in soccer can lead to increased risks of dementia,” he said.
“Unlike other dementias and degenerative diseases, where we have no idea what causes them, we know the risk factor [with football] and it is completely preventable.
“We can stop this now and in order to do that we need to reduce, if not eliminate, unnecessary impacts on the head. Is the cap absolutely necessary for football to continue? Or to put it another way: exposure to the risk of dementia necessary for football?
“I haven’t seen any proof yet that running a ball is good for you. Football is good for you, there is less cancer and cardiovascular problems for the players, but there are terrible levels of dementia and I do not see the benefit of this. ”
New “unscientific guess” heading guide
The research comes a week after English football published recommended limits for professional and amateur players in training. It follows previous restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for youth teams.
Professional players for next season will be limited to 10 “higher strength” headers in training long passes, corners or free kicks, while in amateur play players should be limited to 10 headers per week.
But Stewart criticized the guidelines, saying they were based on “unscientific guesswork” and cited the Scottish Football Association, which waited for the latest FIELD (Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk) study before releasing its advice. header.
He added: “There is no basis to say that 10 headers of a certain level will necessarily make a big difference to risk. The FA based its recommendations on match analysis, estimated that they could be the forces and then used them to guide training.
“It’s like standing by the side of the freeway and guessing the speed of cars and talking about traffic measurements in a city. It’s not entirely relevant.
“To assess whether 10 high force head hits could make a difference, we have to wait 30 to 40 years.”
The FA has said it “welcomes” the new research and said the new title guidelines are supported by research and in-game expertise.
Stewart said the research, which examined data from the health records of around 8,000 former Scottish professional footballers and compared them to 23,000 men in the general population, has placed football at the forefront of research on the dementia in sports.
But he said it was a “global problem” and suggested it was time for the game to change formats.
“Maybe the professionals with all the support and medical knowledge of the risks can continue to play football in full contact,” he said.
“But maybe at the community and youth level we can start talking about a game without a cap. Are we waiting 30 to 40? Or are we saying the evidence is strong enough to consider a sport. without unnecessary head impact?
“I think we are well past this stage.”
Hugh Pym, BBC Health Editor
Research on head injuries in elite football and rugby is expanding amid concerns about the long-term consequences for player health.
The debate intensified after a long campaign to Dawn Astle, whose father Jeff died of dementia after a career involving frequent bullet heads.
Professor Willie Stewart is one of the leading experts in this field and was commissioned by the Football Association and Professional Footballers Association in 2017 to conduct research on brain health in players. Two years later, his team published preliminary results on the increased risk of dementia among former professionals.
This latest study goes much further by identifying defenders and those with the longest careers as the most at risk among players with the conclusion that the head is a key factor.
Professor Stewart is adamant that action is needed now to protect the health of current players. From an expert of his stature and a team funded by the football authorities in England, this amounts to an important red flag for the game.