A study was recently conducted including former football players in Scotland where it was found that they were less likely to die of natural causes like any heart disease or cancer when compared to the general mass but more likely to die due to dementia. These results have once again raised concerns about head-injury-related risks from playing sport at least for men at the professional level.
This study was done by researchers from the University of Glasgow. On Monday, they reported the results following the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Comparisons were made for the causes of the death of 7,676 Scottish men who played football with 23,000 similar men from the general population who were born between 1900 and 1976. In the study, which was done over 18 years, around 1,180 players and 3,807 of the others were found deceased.
The footballer’s risk of death in any form was found to be low until the age of 70. However, they had a 3.5 times higher rate of death from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. In absolute terms, that risk remained relatively small, -1.7% among former players and 0.5% for the comparison group.
There was also an increased chance of former players being prescribed dementia medicines than the others. The results “should not engender undue fear and panic,” Dr. Robert Stern, a Boston University scientist who has studied sports-related brain trauma, wrote in a column published in the journal.
The findings in professional players may not apply to recreational, college or amateur-level play, or to women, Stern noted.
“Parents of children who headed the ball in youth or high-school soccer should not fear that their children are destined to have cognitive decline and dementia later in life. Rather, they should focus on the substantial health benefits from exercise and participation in a sport that their children enjoy,” while also being aware of the risks of head-balling, Stern wrote.
English Football Association chairman Greg Clark says “the whole game must recognize that this is only the start of our understanding and there are many questions that still need to be answered. It is important that the global football family now unites to find the answers and provide a greater understanding of this complex issue.”