A British study of former Scottish players shows that professional soccer players are three and a half times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s than the rest of the population.
Playing professional soccer would put them at greater risk of developing certain neurodegenerative diseases than the rest of the population.
This is the conclusion of a study presented on Monday 21 October in London, the results of which continue to cause a sensation in the world of soccer. Carried out under the direction of neuropathologist Willie Stewart, of the University of Glasgow, at the request of the English Football Federation (FA), it shows that a professional soccer player is particularly at risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
A five times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed the medical records of 7,676 football players who played in Scotland between 1900 and 1976 and compared them with those of 23,000 patients from other professions.
They found that professional football players are five times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, four times more likely to develop motor neuron disease, and twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
On the other hand, according to the study, they have a lower risk of dying from certain common diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, or from certain cancers, such as lung cancer. Stewart’s work also highlights a lower rate of mortality of former football players up to the age of 70 and then a higher rate of mortality in relation to the rest of the general population.
The risk factors remain unknown
Dr. Stewart, however, proposed to qualify these results. “While efforts must be made to identify the factors that contribute to this increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases in order to reduce it, there are also broader potential benefits related to the game of football that need to be considered,” he said.
The FA also said in a statement that “the study does not determine whether it is the hits, concussion management, the headers, the style of play or the personal lifestyle of players or other factors that promote the development of neurodegenerative diseases.”
However, an independent sports medicine advisory group recommends that more rapid action be taken to better treat head injuries and that UEFA’s proposals on the introduction of temporary replacements for concussions be implemented by the English Football Association.