HEALTH

Soccer and Alzheimer's, soccer players are more at risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases: science says so

After many decades in which this aspect was completely ignored, the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head in sports have begun to be studied in recent years. The results of such research have astonished all researchers, who have found correlations between repeated blows in the course of sports activity and the onset of neurodegenerative diseases.

The sports most taken into consideration are of course rugby and American football, where the blows suffered by athletes are often very violent, but now soccer is also being considered, and specifically the micro-trauma that this sport entails for the skull and brain.

A study from Sweden seems to confirm that yes, even in soccer, there is this problem, and that on a scientific level, soccer players are more susceptible to developing neurodegenerative diseases because of their profession.

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Soccer and Alzheimer's, soccer players are more at risk of developing neuro-degenerative diseases: science says so
After many decades in which this aspect was completely ignored, the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head in sports have begun to be studied in recent years. The results of such research have astonished all researchers, who have found correlations between repeated blows in the course of sporting activity and the onset of neuro-degenerative diseases. The sports taken into consideration the most are, of course, rugby and American football, where the blows suffered by athletes are often very violent, but now soccer, and specifically the micro-trauma this sport entails for the skull and brain, is also being considered. A study from Sweden seems to confirm that yes, even in soccer, there is this problem, and that on a scientific level, soccer players are more susceptible to the development of neuro-degenerative diseases because of their profession.
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Football players are more prone to neuro-degenerative diseases
Similar research has already been carried out in other sports, those even more contact sports than football, such as rugby and American football, but of course also MMA, boxing and the like. The results, however, are surprising. According to the results of this study, in fact, professional football players may have an up to 50 per cent higher risk of developing neuro-degenerative diseases during their lifetime.
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The study
This research was conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and published in the Lancet Public Health journal. The study was developed by observing and monitoring over six thousand footballers who played in the major Swedish leagues between 1924 and 2019.
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The causes of increased risks
The situation is slightly different from rugby and football, where what is dangerous are the tremendous blows to the head that one suffers at every game (even with a helmet, it doesn't matter). We are talking about what was described perfectly by the 2015 film 'Concussion'. In football, of course, this violent component is missing, but it remains a contact sport, and therefore athletes are subject to a very long series of micro-traumas that in the long run, according to research, can increase the danger of developing neuro-degenerative diseases. Quoting the ANSA news agency, 'it has been suggested that the trauma suffered by repeatedly hitting a football with the head causes neuro-degeneration, although the evidence for such a link is inconsistent, incomplete and controversial'.
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The results of the research
The result itself is clear: compared to the average population, footballers run a 50% higher risk of developing neuro-degenerative diseases over time. The data predominantly highlight the onset of Alzheimer's disease (in 62% of cases) while, interestingly, a reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease (-32%). No links were found with neuro-motor diseases such as ALS. Moreover, these analyses did not concern goalkeepers.
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However, the mortality rate is much lower than in ordinary people
Paradoxically, despite the increased risk of suffering from these terrible diseases, the overall mortality rate is very low. This is because, stresses one of the authors of the research, Björn Pasternak, 'their general health was better than that of the general population, probably because they kept themselves in good physical shape by playing football frequently. Good physical fitness could also be the reason behind a lower risk of Parkinson's disease'.
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