Read our new blog below from Emma Russell, as part of the SDRC’s series of blogs from PhD Students/ Early Career Researchers in dementia and brain health.  Follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with the series.

 I am a doctoral candidate studying at the University of Glasgow, currently in my second year. My research is conducted under the supervision of Dr William Stewart, and is supported by funding from both the Football Association (FA), and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA).

I work within the Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group (GBIRG), which is based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. Many of our current projects are directed towards understanding the link between TBI and increased risk of dementia, and the characteristics of the pathology of survival from TBI, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This work is facilitated by access to a unique resource of human tissue, The Glasgow TBI Archive, to support research in TBI and dementia, and in wide international collaborations in clinical and pre-clinical research programs.

My PhD research investigates football’s influence on lifelong health and dementia risk (FIELD). FIELD is designed as a retrospective cohort study utilising electronic medical and death records of 7,676 former professional footballers (FPF), and 23,028 matched population controls. The study aims to better understand the influence of contact sport participation on risk of late neurodegenerative disease. By utilising linked health records, we have access to information such as; outpatient attendance, inpatient admissions, prescription information, mental health admissions, and death certification – all of which will enable us to greater understand the lifelong health and dementia risk of former footballers.

The specific aims of the FIELD study are:

  • To compare the incidence of neurodegenerative disease, including dementia, in FPF to a matched general population comparison group.
  • To compare the incidence of chronic physical and mental health conditions in FPF to a matched general population comparison group.
  • To compare all-cause and disease-specific mortality in FPF to a matched general population comparison group.
  • To register former footballers for autopsy brain donation for diagnostic assessment at the time of death to inform on neurodegenerative pathologies in this population.

Prior to starting my PhD, I graduated from the University of Glasgow with a BSc (Hons) in Neuroscience, and an MSc in Stratified Medicine. For my MSc project I conducted research at the University of Glasgow and University College London in the field of bipolar affective disorder. After completing my PhD, I hope to pursue a career in academia, continuing to further understand the link between brain injury and neurodegenerative disease.

 You can follow GBIRG on twitter: @GlasgowTBI