Former professional soccer players in Scotland developed dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases at significantly higher rates than the general population, according to a study published Monday that adds to the growing body of research that suggests years of exposure to heading in the sport may have negative impacts later.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the largest to date focused on any connection ­between soccer and dementia. Researchers at the University of Glasgow examined the medical records of more than 7,600 Scottish men who played professional soccer and were born between 1900 and 1976, and compared them to 23,000 similar men from the general population.

The former soccer players were less likely to die of heart disease and some cancers, researchers found, but were 3 1/ times more likely to die of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s. The overall risk of developing these diseases was still relatively low, with 1.7 percent of the soccer players dying from neurodegenerative disease, compared to 0.5 percent in the general population, ­researchers found.