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Alzheimer’s Research UK launches new report to understand link between sport and dementia

The charity will invest £500,000 to kick-start the action outlined in the report, including widening research into the links beyond elite sport players

Alzheimer's Research UK

Alzheimer’s Research UK and The Health Policy Partnership have launched a new report outlining four research priorities to address knowledge gaps surrounding the links between sport, physical activity and long-term brain injury, with the charity investing £500,000 to kick-start action.

There has been a recent focus on individual high profile dementia cases within the sporting community, with researchers finding that some ex-professional sports players are at increased risk of developing dementia. However, there has been limited evidence to determine why this is the case, whether the risk applies to other populations, and how the risk could be addressed.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “While the benefits of physical exercise on brain and heart health are well known, multiple studies also show links between past traumatic brain injury and the development of dementia.

“We need to fully understand the connection, and why these diseases occur in order to develop preventions. This report, which is the culmination of collaboration across the sporting and research fields, sets out the most impactful steps research can take to complete the picture, and we will be kick-starting action on it with immediate funding.”

The four priorities outlined in the report – which is supported by dementia experts and leading UK sporting bodies, including the Football Association and Rugby Football Union – includes establishing an international research consortium with research teams and funders around the world, as well as developing a panel of biomarkers in measures including brain scanning, blood, and saliva to improve diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries and dementia.

Also included are plans to prioritise conducting long-term studies that monitor different groups of people for decades to understand lifetime risks and benefits. Moreover, the report underscored the need to explore traumatic brain injuries beyond elite male players, in order to understand risks across different and underrepresented groups.

Professor Jonathan Schott, chief medical officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we want to bring new and existing funders and researchers together to make the ambitions laid out in this report a reality. Interest in the links between being physically active, participating in sport and being at risk of dementia is at an all-time high.

“It’s important researchers, funders, stakeholders, and custodians of sport seize the moment to deliver new, coordinated research to give every person the best possible chance of living a dementia-free life.”

Article by
Emily Kimber

22nd August 2022

From: Research, Healthcare



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