Understanding risk of dementia in professional rugby players

Research project: PREVENT Dementia: Rugby Football Cohort (PREVENT: RFC) 

Lead investigator: Professor Craig Ritchie 

  • Grant type: Project
  • Duration: 36 months 
  • Grant cost: £253,269

Why did we fund this research?

Comment from our Research Network volunteers:

'Preventing dementia by understanding its causes and identifying disease at its earliest stage is essential.'

Project summary

A key step in developing new treatments or preventative interventions for dementia is to identify and understand the very earliest stages of the condition.

Professor Ritchie will be recruiting 50 professional Rugby players to the PREVENT programme. His team aims to understand if Rugby players are at a greater risk of these early signs of dementia.

What does this project involve?

As part of the PREVENT programme, which Alzheimer’s Society has supported since 2013, Professor Ritchie will recruit 50 former international rugby players to the project. 

This research team aims to examine whether former professional rugby players show more signs of early neurodegenerative disease like dementia. The researchers will use advanced brain scanning techniques and cognitive testing to compare their brains to the general population. 

They will also investigate whether any differences they find in the brain are associated with the athlete’s exposure to brain injury during their career. 

How will this research help people affected by dementia? 

This project is incredibly important. It will help the research community understand and identify how dementia develops at the earliest stage and whether brain injury plays an important role.

This is essential, as researchers are still working to understand how and why dementia and neurodegenerative disease develops. 

The more we understand about what causes dementia to develop and progress, the more opportunity we have to develop treatments to prevent it or slow progression.

By identifying individuals who are high risk, when we have preventative treatments available, we will be able to ensure that they are accessible when they are likely to be the most effective. 

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