The results of a landmark study led by the University of Glasgow were revealed yesterday (21 October), providing the first major insights into lifelong health outcomes in former professional footballers.

In findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the Football Association (FA) and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), researchers compared the causes of death of 7,676 former Scottish male professional football players who were born between 1900 and 1976 against those of more than 23,000 matched individuals from the general population.

Led by consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart, honorary clinical associate Professor at the University of Glasgow, the FIELD (Football's Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk) study found that former professional footballers had approximately three and a half times a higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease than expected.

Henry Simmons, Chief Executive for Alzheimer Scotland, commented:

“Alzheimer Scotland welcome these research findings and congratulate the team led by Dr Willie Stewart and the research funders for providing what can only be described as conclusive evidence that there is a definitive link between playing professional football and a higher incidence of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. This was an exceptionally robust study and given the scale of the findings there must now be no time lost in moving forward further research to properly define what the main risk factors are and indeed determining what must be done to minimise them.

“Alzheimer Scotland’s first priority however must be to those individuals who are currently living with dementia and their families some of whom may find this news today deeply distressing and indeed other members of the public who might be concerned by it. Our 24-hour Dementia Helpline, local Dementia Advisors and Dementia Resource Centres across Scotland are available to help support anyone affected by this and we would encourage people to get in touch.

“Alzheimer Scotland will continue to do all that we can to support this vital area of dementia research and prevention.”

If you have any questions about dementia and of the local support and services available in your area call Alzheimer Scotland’s Freephone 24-Hour Freephone Dementia Helpline on 0808 808 3000..