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Football’s InfluencE on Lifelong health and Dementia risk (FIELD): protocol for a retrospective cohort study of former professional footballers
  1. Emma R Russell1,
  2. Katy Stewart2,3,
  3. Daniel F Mackay4,
  4. John MacLean2,3,
  5. Jill P Pell4,
  6. William Stewart1,5
  1. 1 Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 Sport and Exercise Medicine, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3 Hampden Sports Clinic, Hampden Stadium, Glasgow, UK
  4. 4 Public Health, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  5. 5 Department of Neuropathology, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr William Stewart; william.stewart{at}


Introduction In the past decade, evidence has emerged suggesting a potential link between contact sport participation and increased risk of late neurodegenerative disease, in particular chronic traumatic encephalopathy. While there remains a lack of clear evidence to test the hypothesis that contact sport participation is linked to an increased incidence of dementia, there is growing public concern regarding the risk. There is, therefore, a pressing need for research to gain greater understanding of the potential risks involved in contact sports participation, and to contextualise these within holistic health benefits of sport.

Methods and analysis Football’s InfluencE on Lifelong health and Dementia risk is designed as a retrospective cohort study, with the aim to analyse data from former professional footballers (FPF) in order to assess the incidence of neurodegenerative disease in this population. Comprehensive electronic medical and death records will be analysed and compared with those of a demographically matched population control cohort. As well as neurodegenerative disease incidence, all-cause, and disease-specific mortality, will be analysed in order to assess lifelong health. Cox proportional hazards models will be run to compare the data collected from FPFs to matched population controls.

Ethics and dissemination Approvals for study have been obtained from the University of Glasgow College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Research Ethics Committee (Project Number 200160147) and from National Health Service Scotland’s Public Benefits and Privacy Panel (Application 1718-0120).

  • neurology
  • dementia
  • public health
  • sports medicine

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  • Contributors ERR produced the first draft of the manuscript and is responsible for data collection in FIELD; KS, DFM, JM and JPP are co-investigators on FIELD, co-designed the study protocol and edited the manuscript; WS is principal investigator on FIELD, co-designed the study, produced the study proposal and protocols and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding This study is supported by funding from The Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association and an NHS Research Scotland Career Researcher Fellowship (W Stewart).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Approval for this study has been sought and provided by the University of Glasgow College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Ethics Committee (Project Number 200160147). The FIELD study has also undergone proportionate governance review and been approved by NHS Scotland’s Public Benefit and Privacy Panel for Health and Social Care (reference 1718 – 0120).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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