Professional soccer players may have an up to 50% higher risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases in their lifetime. This is the figure that emerges from a study coordinated by the Karolinska Institutet of Stockholm and published in the Lancet Public Health journal. For some time, the researchers write, “concerns have been raised about a potential increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases associated with playing soccer.” At the basis of this increased risk, they explain, the micro-traumas suffered during matches which may not give any symptoms in the course of life. For example, they add, “the trauma of repeatedly headbutting a soccer ball has been suggested to cause neurodegeneration, although the evidence for such a link is inconsistent, incomplete, and controversial.”
The research, which comes after others of this type conducted both in soccer and in American football or rugby, studied the data of over 6 thousand footballers who played in the main Swedish leagues between 1924 and 2019. It emerged that, overall, they had a 50% higher risk than the general population of developing neurodegenerative diseases. The increased risk mainly concerned Alzheimer’s (+62%); for Parkinson’s, however, a reduction in risk was observed (-32%), while no links were found with motor neuron diseases, such as ALS. Furthermore, the phenomenon did not concern goalkeepers.
Despite a higher risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, soccer players had lower mortality.
This “indicates that their overall health was better than in the general population, probably because they kept in good physical shape by playing soccer frequently,” says Björn Pasternak, one of the study’s authors. “Good physical fitness could also be the reason behind a lower risk of Parkinson’s.”
breaking latest news © Copyright ANSA