Alzheimer Scotland's response to latest FIELD study findings
Alzheimer Scotland welcomes the publication of the most recent findings of the FIELD* study. We congratulate Professor Willie Stewart of Glasgow University and the FIELD Study team for their contribution to understanding the potential brain health risks associated with a career as a professional footballer.
This robust research adds to a growing body of evidence that, over the course of professional footballers’ careers, exposure to head injury and head impacts represent a prominent risk factor for neurodegenerative disease, including dementia.
Football holds a special place in the lives of many millions of people here in the UK and across the globe. A sport which provides clear health benefits for all who play at any level, football can bring people and communities together.
However, the evidence is now clear that our professional footballers are potentially five times more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia than the rest of the population. It is time to act. Football’s governing bodies, players representatives and clubs must now do all they can to protect professional footballers from those risks. That may well mean the game we know and love might need to change.
We often collectively grieve when we hear of former professional footballers we admire so much being diagnosed with dementia, or other progressive neurological diseases, and whose lives are tragically shortened by what we now know may have been avoidable. Each one is a personal tragedy. As a nation who loves football, we owe it to them to come together to support any necessary changes in the game so that our football heroes of today and tomorrow, and their families, continue to have as healthy a life as possible after their career as a professional footballer.
Jim Pearson, Director of Policy & Practice
*The study, ‘Association of field position and career length with neurodegenerative disease risk in former professional soccer players,’ is published in JAMA Neurology. A copy of the full paper can be found here