New research: Ex-footballers more likely to get Parkinson's

Former professional footballers are more likely to die with a neurodegenerative condition such as dementia or Parkinson's than the general population, according to new research.

Former professional footballers are more likely to die with a neurodegenerative condition such as dementia or Parkinson's than the general population, according to new research.

Researchers at Glasgow University have been investigating fears that the cumulative impact of heading the ball could be linked to brain injuries.

They compared death records of 7,676 men who played professional football in Scotland between 1900 and 1976 to 23,000 age-matched records from the general population.

The results

The team found that compared to the general population the former footballers in this study were:

  • 5 times more likely to have Alzheimer's 
  • 4 times more likely to have motor neurone disease
  • and twice as likely to have Parkinson's

On the other side of the coin, the footballers were less likely to die of other common illnesses, such as heart disease and some cancers, including lung cancer.

No need to hang up your boots

Head of Research Communications and Engagement, Claire Bale, comments:

"Previous research has indicated a link between severe head injuries and Parkinson's. This study adds to our understanding, suggesting that repeated lower level impacts - such as those from heading a heavy leather football - may also increase risk.

"More research is needed to confirm these findings, and to understand the risks of heading lightweight modern footballs.

"It's also important to stress that a two-fold increase in risk is relatively modest. The benefits of football - both in lowering the risk of cancer and heart disease, and in helping people stay fit and active - are likely to outweigh the negatives."

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