Recruitment for scientific study into brain health of former professional footballers begins

Former professional association football players will be recruited for a major scientific study examining the link between heading the ball and long-term cognitive decline

Prof John Cherrie, Principal Scientist at IOM, spoke with IOM Marketing Manager, Jonathan Ellenor about the aims and objectives of the study and you can listen to this interview here.

Recruitment is starting for a major study of the link between heading the ball in football and long-term cognitive decline.

UK-based researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Queen Mary University of London and the Institute of Occupational Medicine aim to shed light on the possible link between a history of head impacts and neurodegenerative disease in former association football players in a £660,000 study funded by The Drake Foundation.

The study will build on partnerships established through the ongoing BRAIN study, launched in 2016 to assess brain health in former rugby players, and will have the support of the Rugby Football Union’s Medical Services Director Simon Kemp.

The study, entitled HEalth and Ageing Data IN the Game of football (the HEADING study), will look to recruit approximately 300 former professional association football players aged 50 plus.

Through detailed assessments, researchers will gather data on the retired footballers’ playing history, work history and lifestyle factors, while an extensive set of tests will capture physical and cognitive capabilities, in addition to a neurological clinical examination. As well as face-to-face assessments, there will be an option to provide blood and urine samples for future analysis.

Lauren Pulling, Programme Manager for The Drake Foundation explained, “We are delighted to further our partnership with this leading group of researchers. I hope this much-needed study will allow some insight into the potential consequences of a professional football career on brain health.”

 “Many people have waited many years for a study like this,” added James Drake, Chairman of The Drake Foundation. “The Drake Foundation is proud to be funding this work and to be a part of this important step forwards in our understanding of sports-related concussion and its long-term effects”.

“For the first time this study will include a detailed assessment of players’ football heading histories, which could be influenced by factors such as position played, decade of play and level played at”  Damien McElvenny & John Cherrie, Institute of Occupational Medicine.

“The results of this study will allow us for the first time to assess the long term neurological health and cognitive function of former player, mainly in relation to their exposure to concussion and heading the ball” Valentina Gallo, Queen Mary University of London

For more information or interview requests please contact media@drakefoundation.org

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