Aug 15, 2023
Early findings from 10-year Drake Football Study published

The first data results from the 10-year Drake Football Study have now been published. Launched in 2019, the Drake Football Study is tracking the physical and mental health of around 170 men’s and women’s footballers – beginning during their playing careers and transitioning through to retirement.

The project’s first findings, based on studies on men’s professional footballers, showed a low prevalence of knee and hip osteoarthritis (degeneration of joint cartilage); that pain is a valid symptom to suggest osteoarthritis presence; and that the chances of developing knee osteoarthritis increased with the number of injuries by 1.5 times and just over four times more with surgeries.

drake“This is good news for footballers as further research now can be done on developing management guidelines and determining if any other risk factors for osteoarthritis exist in this population,” said Dr. Lervasen Pillay, who has been practicing in the field of sports medicine for 19 years and has been involved in the Drake Football Study since October 2021.

Most previous research in knee and hip osteoarthritis has been conducted on retired athletes using only X-rays, whereas these latest findings have been determined using validated questionnaires and clinical examinations on active players.

“New information is always helpful to stimulate further research,” said Dr. Pillay. “It gives us a better understanding of the association of osteoarthritis with risk factors (like injury and surgery), pain, and function in the active professional footballer.

“In the real-world setting, this translates into providing clinicians with more information to allow for improved management of their athlete’s condition – in this case osteoarthritis.”

The former Chief Medical Officer of the South African Premier Soccer League, Dr. Pillay’s involvement in the Drake Football Study stems from his combined Ph.D. with the University of Pretoria and the University of Amsterdam.

While the 10-year study is giving priority to joint pain in ankles, hips, and knees of players, and how it can potentially impact the well-being of players in the long-term, it also aims to explore mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression which are often reported by players.

“Part of this study is to identify whether there is an association between mental health symptoms and severe injuries and surgeries,” said Dr. Pillay, who has been monitoring the analysis of men’s players during the study.

“The mental health component of professional male footballers has always been neglected. Through the study, we will be able to collect data on the prevalence and incidence of mental health symptoms and learn if there are associations with risk factors of players developing mental health symptoms.”

This is an excerpt from the FIFPro press release. To read the full press release, click here.

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