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Scots experts lead study into dementia in ex-footballers

Research will examine whether or not the condition is more common among former players.

Study: Hampden Sports Clinic will take part.
Study: Hampden Sports Clinic will take part. SNS Group

A major study into whether or not dementia is more common among former football players than the general public will be conducted in Scotland.

Glasgow University and the Hampden Sports Clinic will examine 15,000 ex-professional players as part of the research.

The Football Association and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) in England have commissioned a study, Football's Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk (Field), which will begin in Janaury 2018.

The PFA said it had been discussing whether or not heading the ball could be linked to neurological problems for some years.

Dr William Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, will lead the study.

'Through the Field study we hope to be able to provide some understanding of the long-term health impact of football.'
Dr William Stewart

He said: "In the past decade there have been growing concerns around perceived increased risk of dementia through participation in contact sports, however, research data to support and quantify this risk have been lacking.

"Through the Field study we hope to be able to provide some understanding of the long-term health impact of football within the next two to three years."

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said the research will be "one of the most comprehensive studies ever commissioned into the long-term health of former footballers".

He said the governing body "felt compelled" to find out if there are any "potential risks" to playing the game.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "The PFA is and always has been committed to a duty of care for all past, current and future members.

"The regulations in place for concussion and heart screening are testimony to this.

"Neurological problems in later life which may be connected to concussion, head injuries and heading the ball have been on our agenda for the last twenty years."

Dr John MacLean, a medical advisor for the Scottish FA and the Scotland team doctor, said the extensive database of former footballers north of the border would help with the study.

He said: "The Hampden Sports Clinic, in collaboration with colleagues from neuropathology and public health at Glasgow University, are delighted to be successfully chosen by the FA/ PFA to carry out this important research project.

"The aim is to determine the incidence of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases in former professional footballers, compared to a matched group of the general population.

"The nature of health records in Scotland together with an extensive database of former players allows us to determine the incidence of not only dementia but other key lifetime health outcomes of the group."

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