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The Effects of a Concussion in Football in the United Kingdom

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As of late 2021, professional football leagues in the United Kingdom have not released statistics related to head injuries. However, several official sources indicate that a concussion in football is a fundamental problem in the United Kingdom. Concussions, alternatively known as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), are especially prominent among young people playing school sports. Younger people also lead the nation in hospitalisations related to head injuries.

Well-Respected English Organisation Offers Reliable Statistics on Concussions in Football

In February 2017, the Drake Foundation published its first research study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and English football players. CTE can develop due to multiple blows to the head over the course of a typical football career, but medical examiners can only diagnose it at autopsy. CTE has caused some former footballers to develop dementia and experience chronic post-concussion symptoms long after their playing days are over.

The four-year old study details researchers’ findings after studying the brain pathologies of 14 former English football players. Some significant findings from the study include:

  • The average age that people in the study started developing dementia symptoms due to a concussion in football was 63 years and six months old.
  • Former players lived an average of 10 years after the onset of CTE symptoms.
  • 12 out of 14 retired football players struggled with behavioural changes. The same number of people struggled with apathy and low motivation. Ten of 14 former players reported problems with chronic anger outbursts.
  • Half of the 14 study participants showed signs of Parkinsonism. This collective term refers to the symptoms commonly displayed by people with Parkinson’s disease, which include slow movements, stiffness, balance problems, and tremors.

During the final phase of research, scientists conducted a post-mortem exam on six of the original 14 study participants. They discovered that all six of them showed indications of Alzheimer’s disease and four of the six showed indications of CTE. Researchers conducting the study concluded that English football players developed CTE at a rate 12 percent higher than the rest of the population.

The FIELD Study

Nine months after the study described above, a Glasgow pathologist named Dr. Willie Steward led a different research study called Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk (FIELD). In this study, Dr. Steward and his team analysed data taken from medical records in Scotland. The purpose of the FIELD study was to determine whether the overall incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease was more prevalent in recently deceased football players than in the general population of the United Kingdom.

The BRAIN and HEADINGS Studies

Research leaders of the BRAIN Study, which got underway in 2018, combined their resources with the Health and Ageing Data in the Game of Football (HEADING) study to further investigate the topic of concussions in football. These combined studies focus on footballers using their head to hit the ball and neurodegenerative disease that develops later in life.

One of the leading goals of all organisations involved with studying the effects of head injuries among English football players is to identify specific markers in the brain. These markers would help them predict who would suffer from the most severe concussion injuries. Researchers currently collect saliva and urine samples from football players in the Premier League to assist them in identifying concussion markers.

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