Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association
Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Pinterest
Youtube
Instagram
Latest News
 
EventsAbout UsAbout Brain InjuryBrain Injury & SportsHelmetsNews & Information
Latest News

"Heading" in Soccer Linked to Brain Injury

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 6, 2011 09:00

It may come as no surprise to many but scientists have found that repeatedly hitting a fast moving hard ball with your head – known as ‘heading’ in soccer – can damage the brain.

Using brain imaging techniques Israeli researchers found that 38 men who played soccer and said that they frequently ‘headed’ the ball had brain injuries similar to those seen in people with concussion, otherwise known as ‘mild traumatic brain injury’.

Soccer is one of the most popular games in the world and is often the preferred sport for primary school aged children as it is meant to be a ‘non-contact sport’ and therefore less likely to cause injury.

But the study authors, presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago, said that in adult recreational games the ball can travel at speeds of more than 50 kms an hour. In professional matches is can reach speeds of more than 125 km/hour.

The researchers said that it was repetitive headings were the problem, and that it was players who played a lot were at highest risk.

They established a threshold of 1000-1500 headings a year as the point where injury was most likely to occur.

"While heading a ball 1,000 or 1,500 times a year may seem high to those who don't participate in the sport, it only amounts to a few times a day for a regular player," observed radiologist and lead author Michael Lipton.

"Heading a soccer ball is not an impact of a magnitude that will lacerate nerve fibres in the brain," said Dr. Lipton. "But repetitive heading may set off a cascade of responses that can lead to degeneration of brain cells."

The researchers identified five areas, in the frontal lobe (behind the forehead) and in the temporo-occipital region (the bottom-rear areas) of the brain that were affected by frequent heading. Those areas are responsible for attention, memory, executive functioning and higher-order visual functions.

In a related study, Dr. Lipton and colleagues gave the same 38 amateur soccer players tests designed to assess their neuropsychological function. Players with the highest annual heading frequency performed worse on tests of verbal memory and psychomotor speed (activities that require mind-body coordination, like throwing a ball) relative to their peers.

"These two studies present compelling evidence that brain injury and cognitive impairment can result from heading a soccer ball with high frequency," Dr. Lipton said. "These are findings that should be taken into consideration in planning future research to develop approaches to protect soccer players."

Dr Litpon said the impact of heading in children was also on his agenda for study.

While heading is an essential part of the game, Dr Lipton hopes his team’s findings will be used to create safe guidelines for play in the future.

Source

Tags: , , ,

News