A study conducted by the University, and published by the New England Journal of Medicine, found that footballers were three and a half times more likely to suffer from neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia or Alzheimer's. The study was funded by the Football Association and the Professional Footballers Association. Some key findings were that footballers were five times more likely to die of Alzheimer's and twice as likely to die of Parkinson's.
There were no significant differences based on position, however, goalkeepers were less likely to get prescriptions. There was also a finding that footballers up to the age of 70 actually had a lower mortality rate but had a significantly higher mortality rate after. However, this is probably due to the fact they were less likely to die of heart disease, the second leading cause of death in the UK behind Alzheimer's. The theory that the trend was caused by headers was not confirmed by the study.
Broader questions were flagged up as the game has been made safer and many of those studied played years ago when the game was different - two-thirds of those studied were born after 1952. Additionally, all those studied were men, there is no idea if the same results would apply to the women’s game.
The FA Chairman spoke about the study, stating; “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. It is important that the global football family now unites to find the answers and provide a greater understanding of this complex issue.”
The FA has said they now plan to continue the study and are now encouraging FIFA and UEFA to investigate how to make the game safer.
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