Governing body to support co-ordinated response from FIFA and UEFA to Scots-based research and discuss findings with professional and non-professional boards to review best practice guidelines

The Scottish FA will meet with counterparts at UEFA and FIFA to establish a global response from football in light of an historic study led by the University of Glasgow, which reveals the first major insights into lifelong health outcomes in former professional footballers.

Findings published today in The New England Journal of Medicine showed:

  • Former professional footballers had a lower rate of mortality from heart disease and lung cancer than the general population and lived on average three and a quarter years longer;
  • They demonstrated a higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease;
  • Mortality with neurodegenerative disease did not differ significantly between goalkeepers and outfield players.

The research focused on comparisons on the causes of death within a sample of 7676 former Scottish male professional football players born between 1900 and 1976 against those of more than 23,000 matched individuals from the general population.

The FIELD study, commissioned by The English FA and Professional Footballers Association in England, was led by Scottish consultant neuropathologist Dr Willie Stewart, honorary clinical associate Professor at the University of Glasgow.

Rod Petrie, Scottish FA President: “We welcome the findings of this important study – the most comprehensive one ever commissioned into neurodegenerative disease in former professional footballers anywhere in the world.

“It is important to outline that this is only the start in truly understanding the relationship. Further research is needed to determine what exactly causes the increased rates of dementia and while this will naturally involve the wider scientific community it is important that world football takes a lead on this to ensure the appropriate action to such a complex matter.”

Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive: “As someone who played senior football for almost 20 years I profoundly understand the importance of this research and, equally, how football responds to it.

“The game has changed immeasurably during the timeline examined by the researchers and we need to understand what exactly causes the increased rates of dementia: whether through concussion or concussion management, heading of the football, style of play, design and composition of footballs, or other factors. None the less, we must be cognisant of the findings and look where possible to reduce any risk.

“While the research is based purely on the professional game and will be discussed at the Professional Game Board, through the Non-professional Game Board we will also consider any implications for the grassroots game, notwithstanding the report states that its observations cannot be applied directly to the recreational game.

“We are also fortunate to have world-class procedures in Scotland that have been adopted across Europe but in light of these findings we must remain responsive.”

Dr John MacLean, Scottish FA Medical Consultant and co-author of the research: “It is important to point out that the FIELD study has also confirmed the benefits of physical activity on other aspects of lifestyle, particularly the reduction in heart disease and some cancers.

“Scottish football has in many ways taken a lead on the subject of head injury and trauma in sport. We are fortunate to have among the best health data anywhere in the world, for which the Scottish Government should rightly be acknowledged.

“Scotland was also the first country in the world to produce concussion guidelines: a joint venture by the Scottish FA, Scottish Rugby, sportscotland and the Scottish Government.

“We also have one of the best medical education programmes in sport, including the Advanced Pitchcare course, designed for doctors and physiotherapists working in football to deal with issues such as sudden cardiac arrest, major trauma and concussion on the pitch, and its immediate and long term management.

"This course has been recognised by UEFA as their only accepted course, with the Scottish tutors teaching to all 55 National Associations over the last 10 years.”