However, others were quick to warn of the study’s limitations, pointing out that it showed no clear evidence that playing football could increase the risk of developing dementia. What’s more, neither genetic or wider aspects of the players’ lifestyle were taken into account – factors which are known to influence the risk of developing dementia.
“Our findings suggest that there is a potential link between repetitive sub-concussive head impacts from playing football and the development of CTE,” said Helen Ling, a co-author of the study from Queen Square Brain Bank for Neurological Studies at the University College London Institute of Neurology.
Postmortems found that all six had Alzheimer’s disease, while four also showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a degenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head. Both CTE and Alzheimer’s disease are linked to the build up of clumps of particular proteins in the brain – although the location of these proteins is crucial in diagnosing CTE, which can only be done after death.
The claim comes from the researchers behind a small study which examined the brains of six footballers who developed dementia after long careers in the #sport.
Years of heading balls and colliding with other players could be damaging footballers’ brains and putting players at risk of developing dementia, scientists have suggested.