HEALTH AND SPORT: Link Between Heading and Dementia

By Bill Heaney

An MSP has asked the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to help protect people participating in football activities, particularly children and young people, in light of research suggesting a link between repeated heading of footballs and dementia later in life.

The Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport,  Maree Todd, pictured left, explained: “The Scottish Government wants people to take part in sport and physical activity in a safe environment.

“We are in regular contact with the Scottish Football Association to discuss a range of issues, from developing the game to safety concerns.

“The Scottish FA produced guidance with Dr John MacLean of the Hampden Sports Clinic, which has provided clubs and coaches with a robust set of guidelines on heading.

“They are clear that they do not recommend heading practice in primary children’s football and there is a set of graduated guidelines for when children reach secondary school.”

 Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP) said:”The minister will be aware that the legendary Manchester United footballer, Aberdeen born and bred Denis Law, pictured above, recently confirmed his diagnosis of mixed dementia.

“He believes that repeated heading of footballs may have played a part in that. Policies such as Frank’s law are an excellent way to ensure support for people who are affected by dementia. Does the Scottish Government plan to build on that landmark legislation?

Maree Todd: replied: “I noted Denis Law’s announcement that he is suffering from dementia. I am obviously very sad about that, but I think that it is great when people who have the status that he has in society are heroic and stand up to say that they are suffering from this illness. It reduces the stigma and fear for everyone else in the population and I am grateful to him for doing that.

“Regarding support for people with dementia, we have been clear that, over the course of this session of Parliament, we will substantially increase funding for the national health service and for social care.

“We plan to increase public investment in social care by 25 per cent during this session so that, by the end of the session, we will have budgeted for an increase of more than £800 million in support for social care, compared to current spending.

“That is necessary because those aged over 80 in the general population have a one in three risk of dementia. We must, and will, remain focused on that.”


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