Association of field position, career length, and era of play, on risk of neurodegenerative disease in former professional soccer players
It remains uncertain whether the increased risk of neurodegenerative disease in former soccer players is associated with exposure to traumatic brain injury (TBI) i.e. from heading the ball during game play and training, or other yet unidentified factors.
Risk of injury differs between player positions – with risk of head injury in goalkeepers around one-third of that of outfield players. Those with a longer career will be exposed to greater football related factors, and over the time period assessed there have been changes in medical care and game technology. We considered that neurodegenerative disease risk may vary by field position, career length, and by era of play. In order to explore this, neurodegenerative mortality, hospital admissions, and dementia related prescriptions were looked at in former professional soccer players.
STUDY: MAIN FINDINGS
· Risk of neurodegenerative disease differed by field position. Specifically, defenders were at greatest risk – around 5 times elevated. Goalkeepers were at lowest risk – not significantly greater than the risk seen in the general population.
· Risk of neurodegenerative disease varied by career length. Those with a career length of 15 years or longer had the greatest risk of neurodegenerative disease – over 5 times greater risk. Those with a career length shorter than 5 years had lowest risk of neurodegenerative disease – over 2 times greater risk.
· Over the time period assessed, which included those born between 1910 and 1969, risk of neurodegenerative disease remained similar. We were unable to assess risk of neurodegenerative disease in those born after 1969 – this remains unknown.
You can read the whole paper here – Russell ER, Mackay DF, Stewart K, MacLean JA, Pell JP, Stewart W. Association of Field Position and Career Length With Risk of Neurodegenerative Disease in Male Former Professional Soccer Players. JAMA Neurol. Published online August 02, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2021.2403