Published: Thu, February 16, 2017
Sport | By Fredrick Flores

CTE Could Become A Problem For Soccer, Study Finds

CTE Could Become A Problem For Soccer, Study Finds

The Daily Telegraph launched a campaign past year urging the football authorities to commission independent research with a large sample of former players into whether football increases the risk of degenerative brain diseases.

They had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease usually associated with boxing.The research follows a study at the University of Stirling, published previous year, which found "significant" changes in the brain's short-term memory function from routine heading practice.

It comes as new research finds footballers who repeatedly head the ball can end up with a type of degenerative brain disease.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Acta Neuropathologica on an open access basis, so it's free to read online.

In 2015, U.S. Soccer, in an effort to protect younger soccer players, announced that players under 10 should not head the ball, while players 11 through 13 should limit the amount of heading. The FA is now consulting with medical experts to decide the best framework for research but it is unclear whether they will test current players or look into the records of retired players.

The study did not show whether the damage inflicted on the footballers' brains had been caused by heading the ball, aerial collisions with other players or something else.

Our findings of CTE in retired footballers suggest a potential link between playing football and the development of degenerative brain pathologies in later life.

For the first time, researchers have confirmed evidence of the devastating brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in retired soccer players. It is thought that heading the ball could cause CTE and lead to dementia and Alzheimer's later in life.

England's Football Association said it is committed to "independent, robust and thorough" research, which it is jointly funding with the players' union.

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The rate of CTE among the former soccer players was higher than the 12 percent found in the general population, the researchers reported. That's why we need it.

Mr Morris said: "We do not yet know exactly what causes CTE in footballers or how significant the risk is".

"Further research is needed to shed light on how lifestyle factors such as playing sport may alter dementia risk, and how this sits in the context of the well-established benefits of being physically active".

They had all been referred to a psychiatry service in Swansea, south Wales between 1980 and 2010.

The results show more research is urgently needed in the area, Professor Huw Morris of UCL Institute of Neurology said, but he cautioned the risk for people who enjoy playing football in their spare time is likely to be low.

'These guidelines were created to help recognise and manage concussion - from the time of injury through to a player's safe return to football'. The researchers acknowledged the small sample and limited nature of the study and called for wider and larger inquiries to be undertaken. We know that these factors play a big role in influencing a person's risk of dementia and so need to be accounted for when understanding how the condition has developed.

'However, it is important to note that we only studied a small number of retired footballers with dementia and that we still do not know how common dementia is among footballers'.

Dr Charlotte Cowie, head of medicine at the FA, said: 'The Football Association takes the concerns around concussion and head injuries extremely seriously.

The research was funded by the UK-based not-for-profit The Drake Foundation.

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