A study into dementia in football is urging amateur and professional female players to volunteer to discover whether they could be more at risk than their male counterparts from repeatedly heading the ball.
Although recent research from the University of Glasgow showed retired male players are about five times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease, far less work has been done on the potential effects on female players, with concerns that “physical and physiological differences” could mean they are at even greater risk of developing dementia.
Dr Michael Grey, who is leading the study at University of East Anglia, said: “We know that there is greater risk of dementia in former professional footballers and we think this is related to repetitive heading of the ball. We know very little about how this affects female players, but we think female players are at even greater risk of developing sport-related dementia than male players.
“We know there are physical and physiological differences between male and female players and this could be important when it comes to the impact of repeatedly heading the ball. But we don’t fully understand the impact these differences could have, so we are encouraging former amateur and professional female players to come forward to help us with our project.”
The UEA has signed up more than 35 former male professional players for the project, including Norwich’s Iwan Roberts and Jeremy Goss and the Crystal Palace striker Mark Bright. Using cutting-edge technology to test for early signs of cognitive decline in men and women, the project is part of its concussion action programme and is open to everyone over the age of 40 who has played football regularly.
“Testing is conducted on a computer or tablet from the comfort of their own homes and takes around 30 minutes, four times per year,” said Grey. “We are tracking their brain health over time. And we hope to follow these footballers for many years to come.”