Football headers 'linked to brain damage'

16 February, 2017, 01:19 | Author: Felix Jensen

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 team from University College London studied 13 professional footballers and one amateur player, examining the brains of six after their deaths.

British researchers studying the brains of retired soccer players have discovered signs of degenerative disorders associated with repeated blows to the head.

In the study, published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica, the report's authors make it clear they were not analysing the risks of heading by children.

The Professional Footballers' Association has defended its response to the growing number of former players now suffering from dementia, after criticism that the union, clubs and Football Association are not doing enough to help them.

Researchers say it is very hard to draw clear conclusions about current sportsmen because CTE is only diagnosed posthumously.

Cohort studies tend to be large enough to be able to show an association between certain factors - for example, frequent football heading and brain damage - but they can not prove one factor causes another.

The findings, from a study of 14 former players, suggest a possible link between playing football and developing conditions such as dementia in later in life.

"This is the first time CTE has been confirmed in a group of retired footballers", explains lead author Dr Helen Ling (UCL Institute of Neurology), senior research associate at the Department of Molecular Neuroscience and neurologist. Both CTE and Alzheimer's disease can cause dementia.

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"I emphasize this is a very small selection of players", said Morris.

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".

These men had a far higher rate of CTE in their brains than the 12 per cent average in the general population, based on a previous study of 268 brains.

As Dr David Reynolds of Alzheimer's Research UK pointed out, the benefits of regular exercise in terms of dementia prevention may well outweigh any risk, especially for those who play football on a recreational basis.

They were all referred to the Old Age Psychiatry Service in Swansea, Wales between 1980 and 2010.

While these results sound concerning, this was a small descriptive study and hasn't proved repeated headers were the cause of the brain damage seen in the players. 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. This month, United States (U.S.) researchers found that players who headed the ball a lot were three times more likely to suffer concussion symptoms - which include headache, nausea and confusion - than those who didn't.

Only a matter of days ago the football world seemed to react to Hector Bellerin's concussion against Chelsea with all the urgency and concern of a stoned sloth, and it may have to change its tune after findings from researchers from University College London and Cardiff University.

The Alzheimer's Society, said that studies with much larger numbers of participants were needed, who a control group of footballers who do not have cognitive problems.

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

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