“Association of Field Position and Career Length with Risk of Neurodegenerative Disease in Male Former Professional Soccer Players”
Introduction: If you have been watching the news, listening to the radio, tuning into twitter conversations, you will have come across Brain Trauma, Concussion in Sport & Physical Activity being discussed with great passion and concern. It’s a very hot topic. Lots of debates. Lots of research findings, which prompts a call to action. What better call to action than our device and app here at HIT. Headlining this research study is leading Neurologist and Traumatic Brain Injury Advocate, Dr William Stewart. In this article we will outline key findings and relate them to the work we are doing here at HIT. Our mission is to make Sport Safer – we will really emphasize the ‘I’ for IMPACT in HIT.
What are neurodegenerative diseases and what’s the relevance: Firstly, let’s have a chat about what “neurodegenerative disease” means – in Laymans terms it’s a type of disease in which cells of the central nervous system stop working or die. Under this umbrella of diseases there are: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s diseases, Motor neuron disease, Huntington’s disease to but name a few. According to Alzheimer Scotland: “There are 90,000 people with dementia in Scotland, 3,000 of these people will be under the age of 65 years old”. With these alarming numbers its of importance that within the sporting world we recognise the correlation that head impacts gained during sporting pursuits has a contributing factor to such development of neurodegenerative diseases. This study on professional male footballers highlights a strong relationship between head impacts gained during sporting time. The relevance is that this study isn’t just of interest to the sporting community but more of public health crisis.
Long Term Health Implications: “Former professional contact sports athletes are recognised as having higher mortality from dementia and a range of other neurodegenerative diseases, including motor neuron disease and Parkinson disease, compared with the general population”. Many could argue that this statement alone shows how head traumas are not only an issue for sports people alike, but for the wider general population, as it impacts other sectors, from care homes to NHS services to family relationships and ultimately the way we live, remember, and create memories, or in some sad cases, the way we fade and forget such memories. We recognise that head impacts caused during sporting interactions have correlations with brain functions later in life.
Study Recommendation x HIT’s Support:
One of the studies recommendations stated: “Strategies directed toward reducing head impact exposure may be advisable in the meantime”. Here at HIT we fully support this recommendation, we are not a solution by any means, but we are a ‘strategy’ that can provide you with the data, so that you have information to then make decisions from. You will be able to check head impact exposure, either continue with play or be removed from play. We aim to keep it simple, so you can keep safe. Heading in Football: “Nevertheless, purposeful head impacts through heading the ball are part of gameplay and training in soccer” Much like this study we understand that “heading in football” is a fundamental skill and aspect of football – therefore we are aware of many arguments in which sporting fans and football players present in terms of the negative impact that could occur by removing heading from the game. We don’t want to change the game; we want to make the game safer. You can train with a HIT head band on, and this will allow you to monitor your head impacts, it acts as a mechanism to provide you with a brain log of data, so that you are more aware of the repercussions as opposed to continuing in denial. This study also highlighted that there are differences based on footballers’ positions. “TBI risk and heading exposure varies by field position, being lower among goalkeepers than players in other field positions”. As well as “outfield players were at higher risk of neurodegenerative disease than goalkeepers”. This highlights that heading the ball does cause long term implications for overall brain health and cognitive functions.
Continued Research and Study:
“Follow on studies including larger numbers are required to further explore risk of neurodegenerative disease among specific field positions”. Studies and continued research will help shape and aid in the growth and development of our sports tech product – we are utilising recent studies and findings to ensure we can provide a product that is fit for purpose. This continued call for action allows us here at HIT to really develop a sporting community that are brain trauma informed. It would also be worthwhile noting that a female comparison study would shed some light for female athletes within sport, so that more accurate recommendations can be made for female participants, as this study was solely conducted on male subjects.
Summary: This study identifies that there is a correlation between head impacts and neurodegenerative disease – what’s important is for there to be a call to action after such findings. There is no point in having all this amazing research, studies, and findings if we don’t implement change. HIT’s mission is to improve impact force detection. We also have the added bonus that we are not solely for Football, but a multipurpose product that can be used across a variety of sports and activities.
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Author: Fern Mitchell