FA invests in study on dementia for ex-footballers

The Football Association and the Professional Footballers’ Association are funding an independent study into the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease in ex-professional footballers.

This follows two years of research and development and is the next step in both associations committing to an evidence-based study into the long-term effects of participation in football. This new study, ‘Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk’ [FIELD], is scheduled to start in January 2018. It will be run by Dr William Stewart and colleagues at the University of Glasgow and the Hampden Sports Clinic. The research team will conduct studies to address the question: 'Is the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease more common in ex-professional footballers than in the normal population?' It will look at approximately 15,000 former professional footballers and compare these results to matched general population health data. FA CEO Martin Glenn added: "This new research will be one of the most comprehensive studies ever commissioned into the long-term health of former footballers. “Dementia can have a devastating effect and, as the governing body of English football, we felt compelled to commission a significant new study in order to fully understand if there are any potential risks associated with playing the game.” Dr Stewart said research data in this area has been lacking while concern about the perceived increased risk of dementia through participation in contact sports has increased. The study comes more than 15 years since Jeff Astle, former England and West Bromwich Albion striker, died with what a coroner described as an “industrial injury”. Since Astle’s death, the families of several former footballers have shared their stories of dealing with dementia and related illnesses. Earlier this month a BBC 1 documentary showed former England International Alan Shearer investigating the potentially devastation link between football and dementia Commenting on the story on Twitter Alan Shearer said: “A long time coming but great news. Hopefully this demonstrates that there is now a real search for answers. More must follow. Congratulations @WillStewNeuro #footballanddementia Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway – the brain injury association, said: “For years we have been calling on football authorities to initiate this research, and while we welcome the fact that action is finally being taken, it should never have taken so long to get to this point. “We hope that this research will finally provide some answers to families who for too long have been fighting to gain a better understanding of whether or not their loved ones’ dementia was caused by heading a football. “Equally, players – and indeed parents – deserve answers on the question of whether or not they are at risk from today’s lightweight footballs, and we question whether or not this study will be able to provide any meaningful insight into this.” The Independent said that brain injury charities “welcomed the announcement of new research into dementia and football, but have asked why it took so long and said one study will not be enough.”
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