Lots of Headers Hurts Memory: Brain Abnormalities Found in Some Soccer Players

By Seppa, Nathan | Science News, July 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

Lots of Headers Hurts Memory: Brain Abnormalities Found in Some Soccer Players


Seppa, Nathan, Science News


Soccer players who hit the ball with their heads a lot don't score as well on a memory test as players who head the ball less often, a new study finds. Frequent headers are also associated with abnormalities in the white matter of the brain, researchers report June 11 in Radiology.

"These changes are subtle," says Inga Koerte, a radiologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "But you don't need a concussive trauma to get changes in the microstructure of your brain."

While soccer players can get concussions from colliding with goal posts, the ground or each other, concussions are uncommon from heading the ball even though it can move at 80 kilometers per hour, says coauthor Michael Lipton, a neuroradiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

He and his colleagues took magnetic resonance imaging scans of 28 men and nine women who played amateur soccer. The players, with an average age of 31, tallied up their games and practice sessions in the previous year and estimated how many headers they had done in each. Most players headed the ball hundreds of times; some hit thousands of headers.

The MRIs revealed abnormalities in some players, mainly in the white matter of three regions of the brain. …

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