Dementia in football: FA and PFA to commission new studies into neurodegenerative disorders

New studies will be commissioned into what causes the increased risk of dementia among professional footballers, the Football Association has announced.

The 2019 FIELD study, conducted by academics at the University of Glasgow, found former footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than age-matched members of the general population.

The study was co-funded by the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association, and now the FA’s independently chaired research task force is seeking further research to work out the cause of the increased risk.

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FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “This call for research is the next important step in our commitment to understanding more about the link between neurodegenerative disorders in former professional footballers.

“The interim findings of the FIELD study gave us some groundbreaking insight, however, the parameters of the study meant that it was not able to answer exactly what causes the link, which will now be the primary focus for this research.

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“Although the pandemic has impacted on our recent progress in medical research, we are now very pleased to be sending out this new call for research that’s aimed at answering our question through robust and extensive analysis.”

Dementia in former footballers is becoming of increasing concern, with five of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning side having, or have had, the disease.

Research applications are encouraged to also address the risk to current players, risks at different levels of the game, the nature of any risk in childhood, the risk in other sports and the risk in women’s as well as men’s football.

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, said: “Following the landmark findings, the PFA committed to funding further research to try and improve our understanding of what specific factors caused the link between neurodegenerative disorders in former professional footballers.

“It is hoped that new research will inform protections for current players and help make the sport as safe as possible for future generations.”

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