Rugby officials must take immediate action to reduce head injuries, according to researchers, after a study found that former international players are 15 times more likely to develop motor neurone disease.

Academics who studied a cohort of former Scottish internationals discovered that the ex-players were about 2.5 times more likely than the general population to develop neurodegenerative disease.

A team led by the University of Glasgow compared health outcomes among 412 male Scottish former international rugby players with over 1200 matched individuals from the general population in the most recent study.

The findings, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, revealed that while former players died at a slightly older age, they were also at a higher risk of being diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease than their matched controls.

The risk varies depending on the sub-type, but not by player position. In addition to an increased risk of developing motor neurone disease, the risk of Parkinson’s disease is three times higher.

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