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Professional footballers are likely to encounter health problems at some point in their lives.

The aim of the Drake football study is to gain more insight into some of these most common issues in order to help develop preventative and curative measures.

The 10-year project - the most comprehensive study of its kind - is seed-funded by The Drake Foundation, and supported by Amsterdam University Medical Centers and Mehiläinen NEO Hospital in Turku, Finland.

Over the next decade, researchers from among others FIFPro and Amsterdam University Medical Centers will repeatedly gather epidemiological information from at least 200 footballers in Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

The researchers will track changes in the mental health, cartilage degeneration, neurocognitive decline and cardiovascular health of players between the ages of 28 and 38.

The study will be launched at a symposium - The Health Challenges in Professional Football - at Arsenal's stadium in London on October 16th with speakers including Marco van Basten, the three-time Ballon d'Or winner, and Dr. Charlotte Cowie, Head of Medicine at the English Football Association.

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According to previous research by FIFPro, more than one in three active professional footballers suffer from mental heath symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, disturbed sleep and distress, during their often short but intense careers.

Former footballers are more likely to suffer from the effects of deteriorated knee joint cartilage (osteoarthritis), with 34% of retired players aged over 40 having the condition, according to FIFPro research published in 2018.

The condition can mean difficulty walking up and down stairs, and getting up from a chair.

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Neurocognitive decline has also been under scrutiny in several professional sports but further research is needed in football to investigate whether, for example, there is a link with concussion.

With regards to cardiovascular health, there have been a series of devastating sudden and cardiac deaths on the pitch of apparently-healthy professional footballers.

The Drake football study is led and coordinated by Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge, FIFPro’s Chief Medical Officer. If you would like to know more about the study, please send us an email.

Pictures by VI Images; Graphic by FIFPro.