Gareth Southgate is leading our support to encourage ex-players to take part in important research studies which focus on the potential links between neurodegenerative disorders and former professional footballers.
The England manager will also take part in one of the FA-backed research studies, as the involvement of former professional footballers is critical to the success of these projects.
We have helped to lead the way in groundbreaking research into the links between neurodegenerative disorders and former professional footballers by supporting objective, robust and thorough research in this area.
As part of an ongoing commitment to explore and invest in further research, we are currently supporting two independently-led research studies which are examining former professional footballers for early signs of neurocognitive degeneration. These include the FOCUS study by The University of Nottingham, funded by The FA and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA); and the HEADING study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, funded by the Drake Foundation.
Both studies were identified by our independently-chaired Concussion Expert Panel in the 2016 call for research which also identified the FIELD study from Glasgow University.
Southgate said: "This is an incredibly-important issue in our game and I’m very happy to play my part in supporting this research. Having turned 50 last year, I am now eligible to take part in the HEADING study, which could provide crucial and valuable insight to help people who play the game now and in the future.
"I would encourage any former professional footballer who is willing and able to take part in the HEADING or the FOCUS study to do so. Our involvement is absolutely essential if we are to have a greater understanding of this issue; and their support for the studies can be done from their home, either online or over the phone."
Our head of medicine, Dr Charlotte Cowie, said: "Dementia is a debilitating disease across wider society, and we are doing everything we can to build a greater understanding of what causes the link between neurodegenerative disorders and former professional footballers.
"We have helped to make great strides in our knowledge and insight in this area, however our next step is a crucial one, and it’s not one that we can do alone. Simply-put, without the support and involvement of former professional footballers who are over the age of 50, it will be almost impossible to take our research and understanding to the next level.
"I’m very pleased that Gareth Southgate has agreed to support the HEADING study, which is being led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and I hope that it will give encouragement to other former professional footballers to take part in these important research studies as well."
How former professional footballers can get involved:
The University of Nottingham – FOCUS study
The FOCUS research group has already invited a pre-selected group of former professional footballers to ask them to be involved in study. They are not able to take extra volunteers at this stage. However, if you are a former professional footballer who has been contacted to take part in this study, via post or email, please do respond and take part if you are able to do so. The study will only involve a questionnaire and a telephone assessment during the pandemic. Some participants may be invited to attend the nearest NHS hospital for further examination when the pandemic is over. The FOCUS study forms part of the research portfolio of the Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine – HEADING study
Former professional footballers can apply to be involved in the HEADING study if they are over the age of 50 and a member of the PFA. The research is largely being conducted by phone and online, due to current COVID-19 restrictions, so those involved may not even need to leave their home to take part; and personal details would be kept private and anonymous. No tests are uncomfortable or dangerous and it will mainly involve answering questions or filling in a questionnaire. If you are a former professional footballer and would like to volunteer to take part in the research study, please contact the HEADING Study team for further details by emailing HEADINGstudy@lshtm.ac.uk.
In addition, The League Managers Association (LMA) are also supporting the SCORES study, which is being led by the University of East Anglia and they also require the support of former male and female professional football players over the age of 40 for their research.
The Drake Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation committed to understanding and improving the health and welfare of sports players, particularly the health challenges surrounding head impacts and concussions. At present, the Drake Foundation is funding several research studies into the links between football and brain health, including the HEADING study.