New research has today uncovered that former footballing professionals are three and a half times more susceptible to dying from the disease dementia than people of the same age in the general population.
Glasgow University conducted research over fears linking brain injuries with heading balls, something which former West Bromich Albion striker Jeff Astle has been claimed to have died from in 2002.
The university looked at deaths of 7,676 ex-players to 23,000 within the general population and took a sample from men who had been performing in Scotland between 1900 and 1976.
Doctor Willie Steward was the lead consultant when the research began the research in January last year and said that: “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”.
Despite findings suggesting that footballers had a higher chance of dying from the disease, the research positively found that other diseases like heart disease will be less likely to occur.
“This is the largest study to date looking in this detail at the incidence of neurodegenerative disease in any sport, not just professional footballers”, said Dr Stewart.
“Our data show that while former footballers had higher dementia rates, they had lower rates of death due to other major diseases.
“As such, while every effort must be made to identify the factors contributing to the increased risk of neurodegenerative disease to allow this risk to be reduced, there are also wider potential health benefits of playing football to be considered.”
FA chairman Greg Clark had also commented on the findings found by the university: ” The whole game must recognise that this is only the start of our understanding and there are many questions that still need to be answered.”
However, the study itself had taken a lengthy period of time to be commissioned by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association after delays.
These delays had angered Astle’s family who have previously been publically apologised to by the FA who had promised to inform them of a 10-year study in which they had failed to do so.