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Footballers at increased risk of developing dementia, study finds | World News

Footballers are one and a half times more likely to develop dementia than the general population, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Sweden compared the health records of 6,007 elite male football players – of which 510 were goalkeepers – with 56,168 non-footballers between 1924 and 2019.

The team, from the Karolinska Institutet and other research centres, have published their study in the respected peer-reviewed medical journal, The Lancet.

It found 9% of the footballers included were diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease, compared with 6% (3,485 out of 56,168) of the control sample.

There was no significant risk increase for footballers of contracting motor neurone disease, according to the study.

The risk of Parkinson’s disease and overall mortality was also lower among football players compared to other people, the researchers found.

The academics behind the study suggested this might be “because of maintaining good physical fitness from frequently playing football”.

The study also compared the risk of neurodegenerative disease among outfield players to goalkeepers. It found outfield players had a 1.4 times higher risk of neurodegenerative disease compared to goalkeepers.

Peter Ueda, assistant professor at Karolinska Institutet, said: “Goalkeepers rarely head the ball, unlike outfield players, but are exposed to similar environments and lifestyles during their football careers and perhaps also after retirement.

“It has been hypothesised that repetitive mild head trauma sustained through heading the ball is the reason football players are at increased risk, and it could be that the difference in neurodegenerative disease risk between these two types of players supports this theory.”

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In recent years, there have been growing concerns about exposure to head trauma in football and whether it can lead to an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease later in life.

A previous study from Scotland suggested that footballers were 3.5 times more likely to develop neurodegenerative disease.

Following this evidence, certain footballing associations implemented measures to reduce heading in younger age groups and training settings.

Mr Ueda added: “While the risk increase in our study is slightly smaller than in the previous study from Scotland, it confirms that elite footballers have a greater risk of neurogenerative disease later in life.

“As there are growing calls from within the sport for greater measures to protect brain health, our study adds to the limited evidence base and can be used to guide decisions on how to manage these risks.”

The Football Association is currently trialling banning children under the age of 12 from heading the ball in grassroots leagues and competitions in England.

Music’s power to ‘unlock memories and emotions’ helps in dementia treatment, survey suggests | UK News

The power of music to treat dementia has been further reinforced by a new survey.

In a collaboration between the charity Music for Dementia and the keyboard manufacturer Casio, more than 100 dementia patients were enrolled in six months of musical therapy.

Care homes were sent specialised keyboards that allowed residents to play along to their favourite songs in the presence of a musical therapist.

At the end of the six-month period, 79% of musical therapists reported their patients showed improved memory and recall, and more than 70% saw reductions in anxiety and depression.

The survey builds on a number of recent scientific studies, such as one published in the Lancet earlier this year.

It found that music had a clinically significant impact on reducing depression and other symptoms in care home residents suffering from dementia.

There are several reasons music may be an effective method of treatment.

Clare Barone, musical therapy lead at Methodist Homes, said: “From a therapeutic perspective, music can touch emotions, unlock memories, and the two go hand-in-hand really.

“So positive memories can just bring somebody alive, reminiscence, positive wellbeing, the engagement in something, a meaningful activity – like we saw with Jill – playing the keyboard actually brought back memories of her children and playing in the past and the importance of that song for her.”

Jill is an 82-year-old resident living with moderate-stage mixed dementia.

Over the course of her treatment, she saw a marked cognitive improvement, going from being able to recognise and whistle along to a familiar melody, to playing parts of it with the keyboard’s assistive technology.

During a demonstration for Sky News, Jill played much of the piece before admitting with a wry smile: “I don’t know how the hell I did that.”

Grace Meadows, campaign director at Music for Dementia, said: It’s innovative, creative initiatives like this which demonstrate how easy it can be for carers to make music a part of good dementia care.

“We would like to see this programme rolled out nationwide as a way of supporting carers to provide the best possible personalised care for those living with dementia.”

In April, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries backed a plan to create a “power of music commissioner” to promote the benefits of music in a variety of healthcare settings.

The political will, it appears, is there, if it can survive the imminent arrival of another new Conservative administration.