Former professional footballers who headed the ball the most in training and matches were found to be at higher risk of dementia.
The second part of the FOCUS study, commissioned by the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association, into kicking frequency and risk of cognitive impairment in retired male professional players has been published.
Respondents, who were former footballers, were asked how often they usually head the ball during a match and training session.
Those who reported heading the ball six to 15 times were found to be 2.71 times more likely to score below the test threshold in the cognitive state, than those who headed the ball less than five times.
Players who reported heading the ball more than 15 times were 3.53 times more likely to be at risk for cognitive impairment.
PFA CEO Maheta Molango said: “The FOCUS study supports existing evidence highlighting footballers’ increased vulnerability to cognitive decline in their later years.
“The study, commissioned by the PFA and FA, provides valuable insights that builds on the findings of the FIELD study and further explored the link between professional football and the long-term effects of heading and cognition.
“It will continue to be of vital importance to develop the knowledge base and understanding of this relationship so that effective action and interventions can take place. This means real changes in training practices and protocols matchdays to protect player well-being, but also the ways in which former players can be supported.
“It requires a collective approach to all of football.”
The study also showed that former professional footballers who reported suffering concussions with memory loss were 3.16 times more likely to score below the test threshold.
The findings of the FOCUS study will be shared with both FIFA and UEFA, and the FA reiterated its support for further research across the game to help better understand the health and wellbeing of the game. players’ brains.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “This study is another step in understanding any potential link between neurogenerative disorders and former professional footballers. Since funding the FIELD study, we have continued to invest in research to better understand the field and the factors of potential risk Further research is needed to fully understand the issues and we welcome a holistic approach to achieving this.
“As we strive to better understand medical research, we will continue to play a leading role as a governing body in reviewing the safety of our game and addressing potential risk factors that may be associated with football. These include the removal of the training header for primary school-aged children and boundary recommendations for all ages.We are also testing the complete removal of the header. head in U12 football.
“In addition, we continue to review our concussion protocols, which are considered the best in the world. In football, as in other sports, the issue of concussion management must be understood.
“While there is no doubt about the overall health benefits of playing football, by addressing potential risk factors while continuing to invest in medical research, we will ensure that millions of people can continue to enjoy our national sport.”