Football Link To Dementia

Football Link To Dementia

Any football-playing readers might like to read this extract of an article taken from The Independent:

'Post-mortems on six players who suffered dementia found tearing to a brain membrane consistent with chronic, repetitive head impacts from playing football.

The most detailed British research ever undertaken into dementia among retired footballers has concluded that the condition may be connected to repeated head ‘impacts’, caused by collisions and thousands of headers.

The study included post-mortem examinations on six players who suffered dementia, which reveal that all of them had suffered from a tearing to a brain membrane consistent with chronic, repetitive head impacts from playing football. The incidence of that tearing in the general population is just six per cent, based on previous studies.

Post-mortems on the brains of retired players have been very rare, though provide the best possible means of comprehending whether there is a link between heading the ball and neurological disease. The six post-mortems also found that four of the men, all but one professionals, had suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disorder. In the general population, there is a mere 12 per cent incidence of CTE.

The research, funded by the Drake Foundation, put pressure on the wealthy players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, to initiate research into possible links between heading and brain disease. The union has been under fierce scrutiny since The Independent last month revealed the plight of Nobby Stiles, one of at least four members of the 1966 World Cup winning team to have suffered from dementia. His family have received no support from the union and want his illness to trigger action to help others. The PFA says that the issue of research lies with the Football Association.

The Alzheimer’s Society and independent assessors of the new research from three other academic establishments all called for more work to be in the field, which might help create a better understating of whether training regimes might need to be altered to limit the thousands of strikes to the head caused by headers.

The Alzheimer’s Society, said that studies with much larger numbers of participants were needed, who a control group of footballers who do not have cognitive problems. The lifestyles and genetic history of those analysed must also be factored in: they are not in the new research. “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,” said Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer of Alzheimer’s Research UK.'

(Ian Herbert, The Independent, February 15 2017)

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