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Defenders more at risk of dementia

Alasdair Middleton / Wikimedia Commons

Heading is one of the most common techniques used in soccer. It has also been associated for some time with an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. A new study suggests that this risk may vary depending on the position played by the athlete. Led by neuroscientist William Stewart of the University of Glasgow in Scotland, researchers evaluated the medical records and death certificates of 7,676 former soccer players born in the country between 1900 and 1977. They then cross-referenced this information with data from the general population. They found that defenders are five times more likely to develop dementia than goalkeepers and other outfield players, possibly because they head the ball more (JAMA Neurology, August 2). The researchers found that regardless of their position, the risk of developing dementia is greater among professional soccer players who have played for more than 15 years than in the general population.