There is a 50% chance that soccer players will get dementia. These are the findings of a report in The Lancet Public Health. Scientists say the finding is based on research done on thousands of players in Sweden. Of these, it was found that one in 11 is suffering from dementia.
Dr Peter Ueda from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said, “The overall evidence supports the hypothesis that former elite football (soccer) players are at increased risk of neurodegenerative disease, especially Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”
A staggering 537 people out of 6,007 were diagnosed. It shows that heading the ball damages the brain. However, goalkeepers were not at higher risk.
“It has been hypothesized the repetitive mild head trauma sustained, and concussions, might cause neurodegenerative disease. It could be that the difference in neurodegenerative disease risk between these two types of players supports this theory.”
“Male football (soccer) players in the Swedish top division had a 1.5-fold increased risk of neurodegenerative disease compared with population controls who were matched on sex, age and region of residence.”
“Unlike outfield players, goalkeepers did not have an increased risk of dementia – supporting the hypothesis mild head impacts sustained when heading the ball could explain the increased risk in outfield players.”
Another research paper by Glasgow university also showed that former soccer players in Scotland were 3.5 times more likely to get dementia.
“We found a significantly higher risk of neurodegenerative disease diagnosis and neurodegenerative disease mortality among soccer players than population controls. However, the magnitude of the association was not as large.”
“By the late 1990s, almost all top division players had football (soccer) as their full-time occupation. Further research is needed to investigate how exposures associated with health outcomes might differ across populations of elite football (soccer) players,” said Dr Ueda.
For now, children under the age of 12 in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already been banned from heading the ball during training or soccer practice.
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