FOOTBALLERS should not have to “sacrifice their health for our entertainment", a Scots politician backing new dementia safety measures has said.

The first debate looking at the now proven link between football and brain diseases will take place later today at Holyrood, as World Alzheimer’s Day is marked.

It has been welcomed by the Scots expert who led the ground-breaking research that found footballers were three times more likely to suffer neurodegenerative diseases and a had a five-fold risk of Alzheimer’s.

Professor Willie Stewart’s study later established that defenders - who head the ball most frequently -  had a five-fold risk of dementia.

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The consultant neuropathologist has urged FIFA  to consider eliminating headers from the sport and suggested footballs should be sold with a health warning.

READ MORE: Football dementia risk five times higher for defenders, study finds

Last month, Scotland legend Denis Law became the latest ex-footballer to reveal his dementia diagnosis. Others who succumbed to the disease include Celtic’s Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers.

The members debate has been secured by North East, Labour MSP Michael Marra and will focus on a campaign, backed by trade unions and the Professional Football Association (PFA).

The ‘Injury Time’ pressure group is calling for brain injury in football to be recognised as an industrial injury with a dedicated working group set up to consider what action should be taken to safeguard current players.

Mr Marra MSP said: “Every month now, we hear of more high-profile cases of former footballers being diagnosed. 

READ MORE: National Care Service must address dementia care cost inequality says charity leader 

“Behind those high profile cases will be dozens more unreported, where families are struggling on, doing their best for their loved ones and our heroes. 

“The science is clear - these injuries are clearly a result of the time that these men spent playing the game we all love. 

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“They have unknowingly sacrificed their health for our entertainment and its time that we supported them properly. 

“The Scottish Government must recognise that these injuries are a form of industrial disease and allow these players to access the support they need, and deserve.” 

New data published last month from the University of Glasgow study found the risks of dementia were related to playing position.

Goalkeepers had the same risk as the average person while defenders  had a five-fold risk and the risk was lowest in forwards (2.79).

READ MORE: Scotland legend Denis Law reveals mixed dementia diagnosis 

The study looked at the health outcomes of 7676 former professional footballers, playing between around 1930 and 1998.

The length of time playing was also crucial  - those who played for longer than 15 years were five times more likely to develop brain diseases including dementia.

Prof Stewart said: “This is a most welcome campaign and debate in the Scottish Parliament. 

“Our research has revealed the remarkably high dementia risk in former professional footballers, which appears to be associated with exposure to repetitive head impacts and brain injury. 

“In theory, this is a largely, if not entirely preventable problem.”

The Herald is backing Alzheimer Scotland's campaign for fairer dementia care costs.