Elite male footballers have higher risk of developing dementia: Lancet study

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 17-03-2023 13:24 IST | Created: 17-03-2023 13:21 IST
Elite male footballers have higher risk of developing dementia: Lancet study
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Elite football players had increased risk of developing Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases compared to general population, according to an observational study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Among male footballers playing in the Swedish top division, 9 per cent (537 out of 6,007) were diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease, compared to 6 per cent (3,485 out of 56,168) population controls.

In recent years, there have been growing concerns about exposure to head trauma in football and whether it can lead to increased risk of neurodegenerative disease later in life.

A previous study from Scotland suggested that footballers were 3.5 times more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases.

Following this evidence, certain footballing associations implemented measures to reduce heading in younger age groups and training settings, the resaerchers said.

''While the risk increase in our study is slightly smaller than in the previous study from Scotland, it confirms that elite footballers have a greater risk of neurogenerative disease later in life,'' said Peter Ueda, an assistant professor at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

''As there are growing calls from within the sport for greater measures to protect brain health, our study adds to the limited evidence-base and can be used to guide decisions on how to manage these risks,'' said Ueda.

The study used Sweden’s national health registers to look for records of neurodegenerative disease (diagnoses, deaths, or use of prescription drugs for dementia) in 6,007 male football players who had played in the Swedish top division from 1924 to 2019.

It compared players' risk of neurodegenerative disease with population controls, who were people matched with football players according to sex, age, and region of residence.

The analysis broke down the risk for different neurogenerative conditions, including Alzheimer's and other dementias, motor neuron disease, and Parkinson’s disease. It also compared the risks between outfield players and goalkeepers.

Overall, football players had a 1.5 times increased risk of neurogenerative disease compared to controls. 9 per cent (537 out of 6,007) of football players compared to 6 per cent (3485 out of 56,168) of controls were diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease.

The authors caution that although 9 per cent of football players and 6 per cent of controls were diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease during their study, most participants were still alive at the end of data collection, so the lifetime risk of developing neurodegenerative disease for both groups are likely to be higher.

The risk of neurodegenerative disease was 1.5 times higher for outfield players compared to controls but was not significantly higher for goalkeepers compared to controls.

Accordingly, in a direct comparison, outfield players had a 1.4 times higher risk of neurodegenerative disease compared to goalkeepers.

''Importantly, our findings suggest that goalkeepers don't have the same increased risk of neurodegenerative disease as outfield players,'' said Ueda.

''It has been hypothesised that repetitive mild head trauma sustained through heading the ball is the reason football players are at increased risk, and it could be that the difference in neurodegenerative disease risk between these two types of players supports this theory,'' the scientist said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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