With the SEA Games coming up, football fans will be treated to football action featuring nations in the region. Players represent their country with pride and passion, but they could risk more. A recent study indicates that former professional footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to die of dementia than the general population.
This study came after The Football Association (FA) and the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) in England enlisted experts at the University of Glasgow to research the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease in ex-professional footballers – and investigation that was sparked by claims that former West Bromwich Albion Striker Jeff Astle died due to repeated head trauma.
Over 7,000 men who played professional football in Scotland, of which over a thousand have since passed away, were compared against a sample of over 23 thousand men from the general population for this study. The findings? The former professional footballers tended to live three and a quarter years longer and were less susceptible to diseases such as heart disease or lung cancer. On the other hand, they were found more likely to die from dementia.
The research found that the health records of 11% of the former footballers who had passed away stated that that they had died from dementia; this was compared to around 3% for the socio-demographically matched sample.
Despite this finding, the study also found that this group of former professional footballers did not die earlier of dementia than those with dementia in the general population.
The study could not definitely conclude that heading a football causes increased rates of dementia. However, it has been recommended that the current FA Concussion Guidelines be re-issued, alongside the best-practice advice for coaching heading.