Researchers will recruit 120 middle-aged, former professional footballers as part of a study investigating possible ways to reduce dementia risk among such ex-players.
The £1.3m BrainHope project will build on the discoveries of the Field study in 2019 which found that professional footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than age-matched members of the general population.
The four-year study will use brain imaging and a range of tests to compare brain health in mid-life former footballers to general population control subjects already recruited to the Prevent Dementia study.
Researchers will also explore whether any differences in brain health among footballers might benefit from management of known dementia risk factors designed to try and reduce their risk.
The study will be led by the University of Glasgow, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and the wider PREVENT Dementia research collaborators.
Professor Willie Stewart, BrainHope lead, consultant neuropathologist and honorary Professor at the University of Glasgow, said: “This is an incredibly important study, and we are grateful to the Football Association (FA) and FIFA for their support to allow it to proceed.
“Our findings from the Field study show there is reason to worry about lifelong brain health in former footballers.
“BrainHope is designed to identify tests that might detect problems early on and, more importantly, possible ways to try and reduce dementia risk for former footballers.”
The BrainHope study will recruit 120 former professional footballers aged 40-59 years to compare against members of the general population as controls.
The effectiveness of Brain Health Clinic management will then be explored within the footballer subjects, with the brain scans and tests repeated again after two years.
Charlotte Cowie, head of performance medicine at the Football Association, said: “The launch of the BrainHope study is another important step in building our understanding of the long-term health of former professional footballers.
“Forming part of the wider Prevent Dementia study, this research will help us further understand the links between the game and neurodegenerative diseases and also potential early interventions which could help reduce risk or speed of developing dementia.”
Former professional football players interested in participating in the research are asked to visit the Prevent Dementia website.