Soccer players are 50 percent more likely to develop dementia compared to the rest of the population, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, published in the Lancet Public Health journal today, compared the health records of 6,000 elite footballers and more than 56,000 non-footballers between 1924 and 2019.

They found that among male footballers playing in the Swedish top division, 9% were diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease, compared with 6% of the control sample.

Researchers discovered that outfield players had a 1.6 increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia than the wider population sample. Goalkeepers, who rarely head the ball, had no increased risk.

In England, the Football Association is trialling banning children under 12 from heading the ball in certain grassroots competitions and leagues.