A new report has called for more co-ordinated research to fully understand the connection between brain injuries in people playing sport and the development of dementia.

It comes after a group of rugby players diagnosed with neurological impairments - including former Wales captain Ryan Jones - issued legal proceedings against the Welsh Rugby Union, World Rugby, and England's Rugby Football Union, alleging that the bodies were negligent in taking reasonable action to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive blows to the head.

Multiple studies have shown a link between brain injuries and an increased risk of developing neurodegenerative disease, and that ex-professional athletes are at an increased risk of developing such conditions.

However, a new report from Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Health Policy Partnership published on Tuesday believes there is a need to establish an international consortium of researchers and funding bodies to better understand the connection.

“There are many limits to existing research that make it difficult to compare data and draw overarching conclusions,” states the report titled ‘Dementia and sport: research priorities for the future’.

“Studies are often not comparable, with different methodologies and definitions used for key measures. Methods of assessment and the duration of follow-ups also vary considerably.

“An international research consortium could help to co-ordinate research efforts and ensure consistent methodologies and definitions across different studies.

“This could improve the comparability of data and facilitate large-scale multi-year research projects, which can be more difficult to set up in isolation.

“It could also encourage long-term data collection, which is essential to help us understand changes happening in the brain over the decades between a TBI and dementia diagnosis.

“A consortium could also continue to highlight and address evidence gaps, promote consistency in data collection and facilitate data-sharing across different research groups and funders, ultimately providing a rich database for further analysis.”

The new report has also recommended the scaling up and development of a panel of biomarkers to detect and manage brain injury. Most biomarkers – which are naturally occurring molecules or biological chemicals which can indicate a condition, a response or a state of normalcy in the body – are only being evaluated in small trials.

The report also recommended instigating longer-term studies and to widen the focus of studies beyond elite male athletes to cover the risk factors to other groups including children, adolescents and females.

Alzheimer’s Research UK will invest £500,000 to develop the research priorities identified in the report.

Presenter Hayley McQueen – whose dad Gordon, a former Scotland, Manchester United and Leeds defender, is living with vascular dementia – welcomed the report.

She said: “It’s good to see Alzheimer’s Research UK take the lead on understanding the links between sport and dementia.

“Witnessing first-hand the devastation that dementia poses to individuals, their families, and friends, it’s about time people got around the table, and worked toward greater understanding so we can act with certainty.

“It is also important that children, teenagers, other genders and people playing grassroots sports are included in research, as scientists have shown they display different risk, injury and recovery patterns to adult, male athletes.”

Additional reporting: Rebecca Wilks