Experts at Glasgow University have been investigating fears that heading the ball could be linked to brain injuries. It compared deaths of 7,676 ex-players to 23,000 from the general population.
The sample was taken from men who played professional football in Scotland between 1900 and 1976. However, despite the dementia risk, the study also found that playing the game increased average lifespan.
Now Headway is demanding further research be undertaken but this time focusing on modern lightweight footballs.
“For many years, families and campaigning charities such as Headway have been demanding research into the long-term effects of repeatedly heading footballs,” said Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway – the brain injury association.
“We welcome the work done by Dr Stewart and his team, but this study was always going to leave a lot of questions unanswered.
“We have known for some time that there is a link between the cumulative effect of repeated blows to the head – such as those suffered by boxers – and degenerative neurological conditions such as dementia. The fact that this long-awaited study has now identified a link in former footballers will no doubt lead to questions about how this will impact the modern game.
“It is vital that this research is now built upon, with a particular focus on the relative risks of heading lightweight modern footballs.”Back