Research Projects

Understanding the link between sport and dementia risk

Awarded to:

Current award:

The Health Policy Partnership

1 November 2021 - 30 April 2022

Full project name:

Understanding the link between sport and dementia risk






We know sport brings a range of health benefits, particularly by improving our heart health, which in turn is good for our long-term brain health.

Emerging research is also highlighting links between sport, particularly football and rugby, and an increased risk of dementia due to head impacts.

What we don’t yet know is how this benefit to brain health balances with the emerging evidence around brain injuries and increased risk – this is where the collaborative report with The Health Policy Partnership comes in.

This six-month project is designed to look at the current evidence base around the benefits and risks of sport.

The research will be carried out with an initial literature review and will also involve consultation with stakeholders to help define research priorities in this space.

Stakeholders will include representatives from sporting bodies, and a broad range of expertise from the research community including clinicians and epidemiologists.

The more we understand about the potential risks of sport, the better governing bodies can help manage those risks.

What’s happening now?

This report launched in August 2022 and identified four key areas of research:

1. Establish an international research consortium with research teams and funders around the world.

2. Develop a panel of biomarkers in measures including brain scanning, blood, and saliva to improve diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries and dementia.

3. Conduct long-term studies that monitor different groups of people over decades to understand lifetime risks and benefits.

4. Explore traumatic brain injuries beyond elite male players to understand risk across different and underrepresented groups.


Dementia and sport: research priorities for the future

A growing body of evidence shows physical activity and exercise have a beneficial impact on cognition, brain health and even the risk of developing dementia.