Home Sports Ex-footballers who headed ball the most have increased risk of developing dementia, study finds | Football News

Ex-footballers who headed ball the most have increased risk of developing dementia, study finds | Football News

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Ex-footballers who headed ball the most have increased risk of developing dementia, study finds | Football News

Former professional footballers who headed the ball the most in training and matches have been found to be more at risk of dementia.

The second part of the FOCUS study, commissioned by The FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association, into heading frequency and risk of cognitive impairment in retired male professional players has been published.

Respondents, who were ex-footballers, were asked how many times they typically headed the ball during a match and training session.

Those who said they headed the ball six to 15 times were found 2.71 times more likely to score below the test threshold in the cognitive status, than those who headed the ball less than five times.

The players who said they headed the ball over 15 times were found to be 3.53 times more likely to be at risk of cognitive impairment.

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Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett explains how the dementia care fund will help retired footballers and their families

PFA CEO Maheta Molango said: “The FOCUS study supports existing evidence highlighting footballers’ increased vulnerability to cognitive decline in their later years.

“The study, commissioned by the PFA and the FA, provides valuable insights that build on the FIELD study’s findings and has further explored the link between professional football, the long-term effects of heading and cognition.

“It will continue to be vitally important to build the knowledge base and understanding of this relationship so that effective action and interventions can take place. That means real-world changes in training practices and matchday protocols to protect the well-being of players, but also the ways in which former players can be supported.

“This needs a collective approach from right across football.”

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The FA have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society to introduce dementia friendly measures at Wembley Stadium

The study also showed that former professional footballers who had reported that they suffered concussions with memory loss were found to be 3.16 times more likely to score below the test threshold.

The findings of the FOCUS study will be shared with both FIFA and UEFA, and The FA has reiterated its support for further research from across the wider game to help build a better understanding of players’ brain health and well-being.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “This study is another step in understanding any potential link between neurogenerative disorders and former professional footballers. Since funding the FIELD study, we have continued to invest in research to gain a greater understanding of the area and potential risk factors. More research is required to fully understand the issues and we welcome a global approach to do that.

“As we work to gain a greater understanding of the medical research, we will continue to take a leading role as the governing body in reviewing the safety of our game and addressing potential risk factors which may be associated with football. These include the removal of heading from training for primary school-age children and recommendations on limits for all ages. We are also trialling the complete removal of heading in U12 football.

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The Players Foundation, formerly the charitable arm of the PFA, has been criticised by a charity who say they’ve had to step in to offer financial support to three former players with dementia, because the Foundation refused to do so

“Additionally, we continue to review our concussion protocols, which are regarded as world-leading. In football, as with other sports, the issue of concussion management needs to be understood.

“Whilst there is no doubt of the overall benefit to health of playing football, by addressing potential risk factors whilst we continue to invest in medical research, we will ensure that millions can continue to enjoy our national sport.”

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