Head injury research project expanded to test for early signs of dementia

January 7 – The University of East Anglia have intensified research into the link between football and dementia with a £1 million study that will test former players for early signs of the disease.

The university and its Screening Cognitive Outcomes after Repetitive Head Impact Exposure in Sport (Scores) project want to screen former footballers’ brain health for evidence of dementia long before any other symptoms manifest themselves. The project is to go nationwide after an initial more regional focus.

In recent years, the risks of dementia in football has become a cause for concern, in particular for players who frequently head the ball. Last year a study by the University of Glasgow, funded by the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association, discovered that former players had an approximately three-and-a-half-times higher rate of neurodegenerative disease than expected.

“We now know that there is a much higher risk of dementia in former professional footballers and we think this is related to repetitive heading of the ball,” said Dr Michael Grey, from the University of East Anglia’s school of health sciences. “We do not know if this extends to the amateur level.”

“So there will be many footballers out there who are understandably very worried about their futures. We will be working with former professional players to investigate and track their brain health over time. We hope to follow these footballers for the rest of their lives.”

In 2002, former England international Jeff Astle died as a result of repeated head trauma. A coroner found that his passing was partly caused by heading heavy footballs. Four years ago, Astle’s family started a foundation to raise awareness around brain injuries in sports.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1593854315labto1593854315ofdlr1593854315owedi1593854315sni@o1593854315fni1593854315