FOOTBALLERS are significantly more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease, a study reveals.
Professional players are 60 per cent more likely to develop the memory-robbing condition than the general public, researchers found.
The study tracked rates of the disease and other forms of dementia in pros in Sweden’s top division, as well as rates in the non-playing population.
Eight per cent of footballers went on to develop the condition, compared to five per cent of average Joes.
Dr Peter Ueda, of the Karolinska Institutet, said the finding “confirms that elite footballers have a greater risk of neurodegenerative disease later in life”.
He said: “As there are growing calls from within the sport for greater measures to protect brain health, our study can be used to guide decisions on how to manage these risks.”
More than 900,000 people in Britain live with dementia — the nation’s biggest killer.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the condition but experts are still unsure what causes it exactly.
Risk factors include getting older, a family history of the condition, untreated depression and heart disease.
Previous research has linked head injuries in sport to developing the condition.
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The latest study, published in the Lancet, adds to the growing body of evidence that heading the ball could increase your risk.
Researchers tracked neurodegenerative disease, which includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, rates in 6,000 footballers and more than 55,000 non-professionals.
Rates were tracked from 1924 to 2019.
Overall, 9 per cent of professionals were diagnosed with one of the diseases over the period, compared to 6 per cent of the controls.
The risk was 50 per cent higher for outfield players, who head the ball, but not significant when looking just at goalkeepers, who do not.
Professor Gill Livingstone, of University College London, said: “The risk is from football positions which are likely to have more head contact or injury from the ball.
“People fear developing dementia – these findings point to ways we can reduce it and not only for footballers.
“We need to act to protect people’s heads and brains and keep playing sport.”
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