Study: Hitting soccer balls with head may cause permanent brain injuries

Study links soccer 'headings' to memory loss


DETROIT – A recent study looked at the brain scans of adult soccer players who had been playing for many years.

The brains of long time players showed the presence of trauma similar to a traumatic brain injury. The study says the trauma is a result of striking the soccer ball repeatedly with their heads.

The study further found an association between players who repeatedly used their heads during the game and those who experienced slight memory loss.

"What we are seeing are the effects of lifetime exposure of adults in their late 20s, 30s and early 40s who have been playing since they were kids," Michael Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and medical director of MRI at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City told the new.discovery.com. "Soccer is more of a contact sport than is appreciated."

The study was revealed in an article written newsdiscovery.com.

Lipton told the website the results were not from hard hits between players or even from players hitting the ground, but was the end result of less powerful and frequent contact between the head and the ball. The term is referred to as Heading.

Heading is a common methods players use to score goals and control the direction of the soccer ball.

The Study:

In the study Lipton looked at 37 amateur soccer players in a New York adult league, 29 of them men. The players were asked about the amount of headers they used during their game, season and lifetime career.

The players then their heads scanned in an advanced MRI procedure that can show minute changes in brain tissue.

"We don't have enough evidence to make specific proscriptive recommendations," Lipton said. "For my own kids, I would actually say that I tend to be more conservative and would have them minimize the amount of heading, especially heading drills done in practice."

"The DTI findings pertaining to the most frequent headers in our study showed white-matter abnormalities similar to what we've seen in patients with concussion," said Dr. Lipton. "Soccer players who headed the ball above a threshold between 885 to 1,550 times a year had significantly lower FA in three areas of the temporal-occipital white matter." Dr. Lipton noted that players with more than 1,800 headings per year were also more likely to demonstrate poorer memory scores compared to participants with fewer yearly headings.

To read the full article visit news.discovery.com.