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Significant Step Towards Understanding Potential Links Between Dementia and Football

Football General

The PFA welcomes the initial results from the University of Glasgow and is proud to have funded this crucial research alongside The Football Association (The FA).

These results will be a significant step toward providing some clarity for our members and their families about this highly sensitive issue, and will help us in our goal of always putting the wellbeing of football players before anything else. 

In 2017, in conjunction with the FA, we commissioned Dr Willie Stewart to conduct the FIELD study at the University of Glasgow to begin getting some much needed answers about the possibility that football players could be at greater risk of developing dementia as a result of playing the sport. 

The initial reports show that while chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) neuropathologic change was prevalent in a high number of the patients studied, in most cases the researchers found many other complex and mixed degenerative brain pathologies.  These results reveal that CTE was not the primary cause of dementia in those patients but raises serious questions about the other pathologies – demonstrating the importance of continued research. 

Dr Willie Stewart, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology said: “Our findings suggest that, while CTE is prevalent in a high number of the patients we studied, in many cases it is not the primary pathology driving the dementia.

“In other words, while head injury-associated degenerative brain disease is important in these patients, the reality of dementia in former footballers and rugby players is that the disease is more than just CTE, and more complex.

“This work demonstrates the incredible importance of research brain donation to support such detailed examination of the pathology of dementia, and we are incredibly grateful to all the families who have supported our studies in this way.”

The FIELD study will continue with on-going support from the PFA and The FA. We will also continue to support two other separate studies looking into this area. 

As always, the PFA offers any support we can to any of our members and their families who are affected by dementia. Please contact us on 0161 236 0575 or

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