Name of RepresentativeDr Andrew Rutherford
PositionHonorary Research Fellow
Name of Employer/OrganizationSchool of Psychology,
Keele University
Grant Year2019

Research Theme

Developing and validating a survey method for determining amount of football heading done over a football career.


Former Professional Footballers (FPFs) aged 70 years and over have been identified as 3.5 times more likely to die from dementia than similarly aged male members of the general population. The cause(s) of this possible dementia link remain unknown, but repeated low-level impacts from heading, and head injuries arising from competing to head the ball are main contenders. A draft survey to collect data on FPFs’ heading and head injury frequency over their football careers was developed and distributed to FPFs by email and at a FPF Association Golf Day. Initially, research was impeded by a key FPF Association Secretary’s hospitalization, and subsequently by UK lockdown responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Two FPF Association Committees assisted the development of an improved survey, which was distributed to all members of these two FPF Associations, along with the test your memory (TYM) test for dementia screening. 60 FPFs returned Short Career Football Heading Surveys and TYMs. Although some further improvements were identified, the new survey worked well. A statistical analysis of all FPFs’ data identified heading frequency as predicting TYM scores. Our findings suggest heading the ball in football may contribute to increase risk of dementia in FPFs. However, the relatively low sample size precluded testing hypothesis relevant to the role of playing position determining (match and training) heading frequency, (match and training) head injuries, and TYM scores.