Former pro footballers are three and a half times more likely to develop neurodegenerative disease including dementia, a Glasgow study found.

There was a five-fold increase in risk of Alzheimer’s and a four fold increase in motor neurone disease.

However the University of Glasgow study found former footballers were less likely to die of other common diseases such as heart disease and lung cancer.

Former footballers had a higher risk of dying with dementia after the age of 70.

There was no evidence that the heavier, older footballers increased the risk of brain injury.

Rangers legend Fernando Ricksen died last month after a lengthy battle with MND.

Celtic's Lisbon Lions hero Billy McNeill, who revealed he had dementia in 2017, passed away in April.

A week later Stevie Chalmers, who also developed dementia, also passed away.

Dundee United legend Frank Kopel was another notable footballer diagnosed with dementia, meanwhile Scotland hero Ally MacLeod suffered from Alzheimer’s.  

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Dr Willie Stewart, who led the study, called for better management of head injuries during matches and said all contact sports needed to take steps to reduce the risks.

The study, funded by the Football Association (FA) and Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), compared the deaths of 7,676 former Scottish professional footballers born between 1900 and 1976 against 23,000 matched individuals from the general population.

Dr Stewart said: "This is the largest study to date looking in this deatail at the incidence of neurodegenerative disease in any sport, not just professional footballers.

"A strength of our study design is that we could look in detail at rates of different neurodegenerative disease subtypes.

"This analysis revealed that risk ranged from a 5-fold increase in Alzheimer's disease, through an approximately 4-fold increase in motor neurone disease, to a 2-fold Parkinson's disease in former professional footballers compared to population controls."

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Greg Clarke, FA Chairman, said: "This is the most comprehensive study ever commissioned into neurodegenerative disease in former professional footballers.

"We welcome its findings and thank Dr Stewart for diligently leading this important research."

Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, added: "It is now incumbent on football globally to come together to address this issue in a comprehensive and united manner. 

"Research must continue to answer more specific questions about what needs to be done to identify and reduce risk factors."