Rugby players are twice as likely to develop a neurodegenerative disease

What are the links between contact sports and neurodegenerative diseases? According to a study by the University of Glasgow, rugby players are twice as likely to develop a neurodegenerative disease than the rest of the population. And it doesn’t matter what position they occupy on the pitch.

To carry out this study, published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, the team from the University of Glasgow has tracked the health status of 412 former Scottish international rugby players, aged 30 and over at the end of 2020, over 32 years. They compared the results obtained with a panel of more than 1,200 people.

During this period, 121 rugby players and 381 people in the control group died, a fairly similar mortality rate of around 30%. LSpecialists point to a better life expectancy among former rugby players, with an average of 79 years compared to 76 years for the rest of the population.

On the other hand, the risk of being diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease is double among oval ball players (11.5%, compared to 5.5% in the control group). The risk of being diagnosed with dementia is also twice as high in rugby players, while that of Parkinson’s disease is three times higher. The risk of motor neuron disease is fifteen times higher. The latter is characterized by a progressive loss of motor neurons. This hinders motor skills and can lead to progressive paralysis.

no matter the position

The specialists also point out that “the position on the field (front or back) of the former rugby players had no impact on the risk of neurodegenerative disease.”

“Contrary to the NFL data [National Football League] and football, our cohort of rugby players is largely made up of amateur athletes, although they compete at an elite international level. In this sense, it is the first demonstration that the high risk of neurodegenerative disease is not an exclusive phenomenon of professional athletes. in a press release.

While rugby authorities have already taken steps to reduce risk during matches, the researchers believe “measures to reduce training exposure can also be considered a priority.” In addition, specialists expect specific interventions in former players, as well as the development of specialized brain health clinics.

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