At NAKO’s research centres, tests have recently begun on former professional footballers as part of a research project supported by DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga, the German Football Association (DFB), the statutory insurance association for occupational accidents VBG and the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). The extensive NAKO test programme will gauge the health of former professional footballers aged between 40 and 69.
Charged with collecting the data is NAKO e.V., the organiser of the largest population-based study ever undertaken in Germany: the NAKO health study with more than 200,000 participants. The objective is to understand better how illnesses occur in order to improve prevention, early detection and treatment in Germany. The NAKO test programme comprises a variety of medication examinations and tests, such as examinations of the cardiovascular system, metabolism and other organ systems, including the musculoskeletal system. The comprehensive examination, which lasts several hours, includes an ultrasound of the heart as well as recording of cognitive and emotional functions. Magnetic resonance imaging provides cross-sectional images of the skeleton and internal organs. A medical interview is carried out, in which participants are asked numerous questions about potential risk and protective factors in their lifestyle and environment.
“The COVID-19 virus delayed the start by a year,” says Professor Klaus Berger from the University of Münster, scientific director of the project alongside Professor Tim Meyer (Saarland University, Saarbrücken): “As a result of the nationwide and regional contact restrictions and pandemic-response measures, many scientific projects not directly relating to coronavirus research had to be delayed. We are therefore delighted that our ‘football study’ is now getting started in line with NAKO’s strict hygiene policy.”
Now that the tests are possible again, players are being invited one by one to take part. “We aim to recruit 500 former professionals and ascertain their general health condition after their careers as professional footballers,” explains Professor Meyer: “Through the use of NAKO’s ideal infrastructure, the high level of standardisation that this guarantees, and the extensive testing of control subjects that has already taken place, this setting offers optimum conditions for our study.”