A head start: UEFA to study links between football and dementia

Youths heading the ball

February 17 – Following tentative research published in the UK earlier this week which suggested that repeated headers during a player’s career may be linked to brain damage, UEFA has commissioned its own research project examining links between dementia and playing football.

European football’s governing body says the project “aims to help establish the risk posed to young players during matches and training sessions”.

The new UEFA investigation will count the number of times children head the ball in real-life scenarios. More than 1,000 children will be filmed across two age ranges, eight-12 and 14-16.

The UEFA project is being led by Germany’s Professor Tim Meyer, a member of UEFA’s medical committee.

He told Britain’s Daily Telegraph: “There was one study from the UK recently published that used 20 headers within 10 minutes. I have rarely seen that in real match play of children. So, what we’re trying to find is a realistic number.

“The results may be used for some later MRI studies or other studies on cognitive effects. These other studies would usually have a longitudinal character, meaning we would not only have to cover half a season but two or three years to be able to detect changes.”

UEFA’s project follows similar initiatives in other sports.

In September, the National Football League (NFL) in the United States announced it would spend $100 million on medical and engineering after agreeing a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had suffered brain injuries.

A study is also being carried out in English rugby to examine the long-term effects of concussion.

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