Published: Thu, February 16, 2017
Sport | By Cecil Buchanan

Small Study Uncovers Brain Disease in Former Soccer Players

Professional footballers may be at an elevated risk of dementia because of the cumulative brain damage from headers, collisions and other knocks over decades of playing the game, according to the first study of its kind.

Players may need education about how to head the ball, and we also need to teach coaches what concussion is.

While the new findings suggest a link between playing soccer and later degenerative brain disease, Ling said only a few retired players were studied.

In England, the death of striker Jeff Astle in 2002 at 59 focused attention on the potential long-term harm of head impacts. "It is sad to read - I am not surprised, it doesn't shock me at all". "It is too late for older players, it is about today's players and the footballers of the future". What we need is for football to do something. "I think that's what is so very frustrating, the fact that it's almost 15 years since my dad died and the fact that nothing from any footballing authorities has been done". And the fact that nothing from any footballing authorities has been done. "It is really indefensible and disgraceful". They chose from those who died due to traumatic brain diseases, but it does show that CTE is a real concern in the soccer community. "This is killing people".

The brains of six out of the 14 retired players involved in the research underwent post-mortem examinations.

We don't know how many people develop CTE, whether some people are more genetically susceptible, and what level and type of brain injury is required to cause the development of CTE over time.

The rate of CTE among the former soccer players was higher than the 12 percent found in the general population, the researchers reported.

He said: "We do not yet know exactly what causes CTE in footballers or how significant the risk is".

"The average footballer heads the ball thousands of times throughout their career, but this seldom causes noticeable neurological symptoms".

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"Further research is needed to shed light on how lifestyle factors such as playing sport may alter dementia risk, and how this sits in the context of the well-established benefits of being physically active".

But he added that the risk for people who enjoy playing football in their spare time was likely to be low.

In total, the team of researchers followed 14 retired soccer players from 1980 to 2010, and six of the players' families allowed the researchers to examine their brains after they died.

Beyond these anecdotal reports, however, there is little hard evidence of a link between dementia and football.

The study focused on six deceased men who were previously diagnosed with dementia following extended soccer careers. The researchers acknowledged the small sample and limited nature of the study and called for wider and larger inquiries to be undertaken.

Prof Morris said: "I think people being involved in research is a good thing and would encourage people to consider that". Further research is needed'. All six had symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

The FA's Head of Medicine, Dr Charlotte Cowie, welcomed the researchers and cited the establishment of an Expert Concussion Panel in 2015 as evidence of the seriousness with which the FA viewed the issue.

The Football Association says it will look at this area more closely.

The FA and PFA, in collaboration with both the Premier and Football Leagues, have now jointly committed to funding new research into the issue, which will inform whether safety measures should be taken for footballers now.

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