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News & Press: UKABIF

£1 million project launch to monitor ex-footballers for early signs of dementia

13 January 2020  
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Researchers at the University of East Anglia are crowd-funding a new project to test former professional football players for early signs of dementia.

Recent research from the University of Glasgow has shown that retired male players are around five times more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease compared with the average person.

 

But little is known about exactly when players start to show signs of the disease and even less about the effects in women as the majority of research has focussed on men.

The UEA research team will use cutting-edge technology to test for early signs of dementia in men and women, that are identifiable long before any memory problems or other noticeable symptoms become apparent.

 

The University has launched a £1 million fundraising goal for this research, at least 10 per cent of which they hope will be crowd-funded.  Lead researcher and UKABIF trustee Dr Michael Grey, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “We now know that there is much higher risk of dementia in former professional footballers, and we think this is related to repetitive heading of the ball. We do not know if this extends to the amateur level.

“So there will be many footballers out there who are understandably very worried about their futures.

“We will be working with former professional players to investigate and track their brain health over time.

“We hope to follow these footballers for the rest of their lives.

“This is the first time that this type of research has been done,” he added.

 

Former players in the Eastern region will be the first to take part in the SCORES project (Screening Cognitive Outcomes after Repetitive head impact Exposure in Sport) – before the study is rolled out nationally later this year.

The research team are looking for former professional players to take part.

Former Norwich City Football Club striker Iwan Roberts, who played more than 600 games for club and country, is already backing the project.

He said: “I played football for 20 years professionally, and headed many balls over that period. I want to see whether there is anything I should be concerned about in the foreseeable future.

“It’s always important to improve and make things better. The game has improved, balls are lighter, but the modern-day player will still be at risk of this type of illness.


“We don’t know how young children cope with heading the ball. I personally think that [heading the ball] should be banned from a certain age.

“The research they are doing here will help everybody,” he added.

The project is among a number of pieces of work in the Concussion Action Programme, a research group within UEA Health and Social Care Partners.


Want to take part?

The research team are looking for former professional football players, both men and women, who are aged over 50 to take part in the study. Active non-footballers aged over 50 can also take part.

The research will see a small group of participants coming into the lab, but the majority of the testing will be done online at home.

To take part, please visit www.scoresproject.org. To contact the team about the project, please email scoresproject@uea.ac.uk.


 

EDITOR’S NOTES

1/ For more information or to request an interview, please contact the UEA communications office on +44 (0)1603 593496 or email communications@uea.ac.uk.

2/ The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a UK Top 25 university and is ranked in the top 50 globally for research citations. Known for its world-leading research and good student experience, it was awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework and is a leading member of Norwich Research Park, one of Europe’s biggest concentrations of researchers in the fields of environment, health and plant science. www.uea.ac.uk.

3/ The fundraising campaign is part of the £100m UEA Difference Campaign see www.uea.ac.uk/difference.  Email giving@uea.ac.ukfor more information.


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UKABIF is a registered charity number 1128284 and a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales Company Number: 6520608. Address of the Company's Registered Office: Box 2539, Kemp House, 152-160 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX