Football or soccer players could potentially be more at risk of developing dementia according to scientists. The claim comes after researchers examined the brain of six footballers and soccer players who developed dementia after having long sports careers.

Postmortems into the brains of the football/soccer players discovered that all six had Alzheimer’s Disease and four even showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease that is linked with repeated blows to the head.

Researchers say that these findings suggest a potential link between sub-concussive head impacts from playing football/soccer and the development of CTE. In both Alzheimer’s Disease and CTE, the particular build-up of proteins although not absolutely crucial in diagnosing CTE, is something that can only be done after death.

The news that footballers who partake in repeated headers may have an increased likelihood of long-term brain damage and are potentially more likely to develop dementia later on may not be welcomed too kindly by The Football Association. Yet the impact of blows to the head during sports has gained more attention in recent years, most recognisably in American football and boxing. Research from the Boston University CTE centre found that 90 of 94 former NFL players whose brains were studied, tested positive for the CTE disease. According to the NFL, this was officially acknowledged as a link between head trauma and CTE.

Why Hasn’t The Link With Dementia and Football Injuries Been Examined Before?

Football, or soccer has given less attention to this issue, although it is slowly changing and gaining more recognition. A British research team, funded by The Drake Foundation, an organisation dedicated to exploring concussion impact in sport, published findings in the journal Acta Neuropathologica and found that of the six men who underwent post-mortems, they also had a variety of other health conditions that contributed to dementia symptoms; and that all six of them showed signs of Alzheimer’s. They also all showed a tearing of the septum pellucidum; a thin membrane found within the centre of the brain. This feature has been most commonly found within the brains of professional boxers, where it has been linked with repetitive traumatic brain injury.

Studies have shown that the rate of CTE in the elderly general population is around 12% and tearing of the septum pellucidum is about 6%. Scientists therefore believe that its high prevalence could be due to the impacts to the head that occurred during these men’s football careers.

The trouble is however that the authors of the study admit that they don’t know how frequently or with what extent the force of the blows could trigger the CTE. As only five of the six who underwent the postmortem were reported to have concussions throughout their career, and then only once each, the study suggested that subsequent concussive blows could eventually take their toll. However, the problem is that more research and larger studies may be required to analyse the issue further. Although they have since welcomed in research that attempts to pick up CTE signs before death.

While some experts downplay the study by emphasizing the small scale of the research, many more know that it doesn’t confront the issue of how common CTE is within footballers or the type of blows to the head that may cause it. Experts say that the study demonstrates how more research needs to be conducted into how many people with a history of head injuries get dementia and if this is directly attributable to having a head or sports related injury…or if the likelihood is that this was going to happen anyway.

Devastating Emotional Effects of Dementia

Health experts state that amateur players are unlikely to experience problems, unlike professional football/soccer players who are placing themselves at risk by more frequently being involved in that position.

West Brom striker Jeff Astle died at the age of 59 after suffering from the early onset of dementia. His daughter stated that it was “obvious that his dementia was linked to his footballing career.”  She went on to explain how he was very fit and then suddenly became ‘a shell’. “He was surrounded by England caps, FA Cup winners medals, everything he’d won in football – he remembered none of it.” Her father was only 55 when he was diagnosed with dementia.

Dawn also said, “He also went through the stage of being socially unacceptable. It was like looking after a toddler. The saddest time was the latter stage when we knew the disease had really got ahold of him. He didn’t even know he’d ever been a footballer. Everything football ever gave him, football had taken away.”

No one is saying to avoid football or soccer; partaking in sports activities is a good way to stay healthy into old age. However, it is important to be aware of how football or soccer related injuries such as headers can be damaging and the impact that it can potentially have on brain health in the long-term.

Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia is no joke. It devastates lives and takes people minds, memories and identities long before that person physically expires. That is why if the symptoms are caught early then it’s important to prevent or even try to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s before it’s too severe.

Recommended Help

One way you find support and relief for Dementia is by following my dedicated Alzheimer’s Health Plan and reading/following the nutrient and lifestyle recommendations in my book, ‘Alzheimer’s Rehabilitation in 30 Days’ by Robert Redfern.

Should you require more dedicated help, then our team of Good Health Coaches can provide personalised advice and assistance as part of a dedicated lifestyle plan to help your loved ones to find relief from these devastating symptoms.



Take good care of yourselves.

Robert Redfern








Sports Injuries To The Head May Increase Dementia Risk |