PFA defends its support of ex-footballers suffering from dementia

Study finds dementia precursor in soccer players

According to Ling, more studies need to be conducted because of the small sample size: The findings can not be applied to a wider scale as of yet, and more research needs to be done in order to see whether or not dementia is more common in soccer players than the in the average population.

A post-mortem examination of the brains of six retired footballers by University College London (UCL) and Cardiff University showed all of them had signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers have found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused by repeated blows to the head of former football players, according to a study released Wednesday by the University College London (UCL).

Of the 14 footballers included in the study, 13 were former professionals and one was a committed amateur who played every season for 23 years. And, while the report did not look into the risks of heading the ball at underage level, the findings lay out in black and white the health risks involved for players involved in the game over a prolonged period. The FA is now consulting with medical experts to decide the best framework for research but it is unclear whether they will test current players or look into the records of retired players.

Repeated headers during a footballer's professional career may be linked to long-term brain damage, according to tentative evidence from United Kingdom scientists.

The new Uefa research will count the number of times children head the ball in real-life scenarios, with the data collected being used during further research into the effects on the brain of repeated impacts.

The findings suggest a potential link between playing football and the development of degenerative brain disease in later life, she said.

Dr Williams, head of the Old Age Psychiatry Service in Swansea, located 14 men with dementia and a significant history of playing football, monitored them over time and arranged for post-mortem studies to be carried out in six cases.

While the study was limited in size, it marks the first time that CTE has been confirmed in a group of retired soccer players. The condition, like Alzheimer's, causes tangles of a protein called tau, believed to lead to dementia.




"These players had the same pathology as boxers", she said.

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

John Bramhall, the PFA's deputy chief executive, said that when the union is made aware of a former player in need it tries to provide support "wherever we can".

He said: "We do not yet know exactly what causes CTE in footballers or how significant the risk is". The researchers acknowledged the small sample and limited nature of the study and called for wider and larger inquiries to be undertaken.

CTE has most commonly been found in players that participated in contact sports and sustained repeated concussions. On the other hand, the risk of dementia is also increased with age and we don't know if these footballers would have developed Alzheimer's disease anyway if they hadn't played football.

"The expert panel further agreed that research is particularly required into the issue of whether degenerative brain disease is more common in ex-footballers".

If the player has a second head knock while concussed, it can cause more serious damage, according to Dr Nicholas Davies, a consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Spire Parkway Hospital in Birmingham.

The research was funded by the UK-based not-for-profit The Drake Foundation.

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