A Scottish footballer’s view on dementia risks

By Dale Eaton

“Even though I’m aware of the risks I’m still going to do it until my legs give up completely” stated East Fife winger Danny Denholm.

A study released in the New England Journal of Medicine found that: “mortality from neurodegenerative disease was higher and mortality from other common diseases lower among former Scottish professional soccer players than among matched controls.”

Following this study, a spokesperson from the Scottish Football Association (SFA) stated: “The new presidential team are determined to be proactive on such a serious issue affecting the national game and are prepared to offer a practical test case in Europe through a range of potential measures being implemented in Scotland.”

One of these potential measures is a proposed ban on players from under the age of 12 heading the football. Whilst this could have an incredibly positive effect on players in future generations it does nothing for the current crop plying their trade in the Scottish leagues.

Speaking about the risks that he faces East Fife’s Danny Denholm stated: “I’m approaching 30 now and I rarely ever approach a game without a little niggle.

“There’s always something that’s not quite right with my body and I’m quite aware that I’ll probably have no knees by the time I’m 50, or I might suffer some kind of concussion, some kind of dementia or some kind of brain-related disease when I’m older but for me it’s all worth it.

“I enjoy football and it’s what I enjoy doing and I’m lucky enough to get paid to do it.”

He also added: “Despite the warnings of how it can harm you physically it’s something that I do not regret at all, it’s something that I love doing and want to do all the time.”

Alongside playing for East Fife, Denholm is also a part-time PE teacher at a primary school. Whilst the risks don’t put him off playing he does understand that the introduction of a ban for under 12s could be beneficial.

“It wouldn’t be the worst thing to do to bring in some kind of regulation at a really young age but when you get to 12, 13, 14 you need to be able to head the football, that’s part of the game.

“Sports have all got the element of risk whether that’s football, boxing or rugby there’s that element of risk in them and I think you know what you’re signing up for, maybe not kids so much but when you’re 12, 13, 14 you really know what you’re signing up for.”

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