LONDON, United Kingdom, (AFP) – Former professional footballers are almost three-and-a-half times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than the general population, according to a study commissioned by the English Football Association (FA) and Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).
The findings of the study, conducted by the University of Nottingham, support previous research that former footballers may be at higher risk of neurocognitive disease.
The new report states that 2.8 per cent of retired professional footballers in their study reported medically diagnosed dementia and other neurodegenerative disease compared to 0.9 per cent of the general population.
Dr Charlotte Cowie, the FA's head of medicine, said: "The FOCUS study worked with an established group of former professional footballers that were participating in research and was able to review their brain health, and it supports the previous findings in the FIELD study which suggest an increased risk for neurodegenerative disease in former professional footballers than in the general population.
"This is an extremely complex area of our game, but we are committed to working collectively with our stakeholders to help grow our knowledge in this area through further medical and expert analysis."
The Football Association has been criticised by campaigners for not doing enough to aid former players now suffering from neurocognitive disease.
But it said it had introduced "industry-leading" concussion guidelines which has restricted heading practice in training and banned deliberate headers from under-12s level.
"The FA has led the way in taking steps to help reduce potential risk factors within the game (including) establishing industry-leading concussion guidelines," the FA said in a statement.
Awareness about concussion in sport has grown since America's National Football League agreed to a $1 billion settlement in 2015 to resolve thousands of lawsuits by former players suffering from neurological problems.
This has prompted a number of sports around the world, including football, rugby union, rugby league and cricket, to strengthen their concussion protocols.