Soccer 'heading' may cause brain damage
November 29th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Soccer 'heading' may cause brain damage

Heading the soccer ball too frequently may cause damage to the brain, according to new research.

In smaller numbers, there doesn’t seem to be a problem. It’s when the number of headers reaches about 1,300 per year that the brain may begin to suffer traumatic brain damage.

Numbers that high may seem excessive, but not for players regularly honing their skills on the field through practice.

“Practice turns out to be a much bigger source of exposure than actual games,” says Dr. Michael Lipton, the lead study author and Director of Radiology Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Some people were reporting heading 5,000 times a year.”

Lipton’s team of researchers recruited 39 soccer players from amateur leagues, men in their late twenties and early thirties who play regularly but not professionally; many of whom have been playing for most of their lives.

Players filled out a questionnaire meant to help them estimate the number of headers they make each year. When researchers compared the brain scans of players reporting lower numbers of headers to players reporting higher numbers, there were distinct differences between the two group’s brains.

“Excessive heading definitely seems to be associated with impairment of memory and processing speed,” says Lipton. “Soccer may not be as benign as people thought it was.”

The study uses diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a type of magnetic resonance (MR), which measures the movement of water molecules in the brain’s white matter. In healthy brains, the water molecules move in a uniform direction through the white matter, but in injured brains, they move less uniformly, and more randomly.

Heading is already the most dangerous part of soccer in terms of head injuries, says Dr. Robert Cantu, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. When heading the ball, players often hit other players, causing concussions.

However, Dr. Lipton’s study did ask players about their concussive history, both on and off the field, and the small study’s results show altered brain images from routine heading, not from any increased rate of diagnosed concussions.

“If there is a chronic injury due to this kind of activity, it’s not something that’s going to jump out on the radar,” says Lipton, “it’s very possible that it’s something that people may not even really recognize, even though we could pick it up by testing for it.”

The regions of the brain responsible for executive functions like attention, memory, and planning, as well as visual and spatial reasoning all showed signs of damage due to heading.

Whether children and young adults are more vulnerable to the effects of heading is unclear, and those groups should be researched directly, says Lipton.

The findings were presented Tuesday at a Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting.

soundoff (651 Responses)
  1. Utility Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 1, 2021 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Van Dent Repair


    June 1, 2021 at 06:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Technician Shop


    June 1, 2021 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. box truck roof repair


    June 2, 2021 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. bus body repair


    June 2, 2021 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. rv service near my location

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't fail me as much as this particular one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I genuinely thought you'd have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.


    June 2, 2021 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jay Datt

    Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Thank you for providing this information.


    June 2, 2021 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Van Upgrades Shop

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the issues. It was truly informative. Your website is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    June 2, 2021 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Elfreda Twitchell


    June 2, 2021 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. box truck floor repair


    June 2, 2021 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Augustine Carwell


    June 2, 2021 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Google Marketing Specialist

    You made some decent points there. I looked on the web for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.


    June 2, 2021 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. flooring repair near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this web site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the info!


    June 2, 2021 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Renovation Near Me

    Great post! We will be linking to this great post on our site. Keep up the great writing.


    June 3, 2021 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mercedes Sprinter Body Repair


    June 3, 2021 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me W Ratings


    June 3, 2021 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Mercedes Sprinter Authorized Repair Center


    June 3, 2021 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. rv inspections near me


    June 3, 2021 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. trailer repair places near me


    June 3, 2021 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. fiberglass rv repair


    June 3, 2021 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. box truck door repair near me


    June 3, 2021 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Sprinter Van Repair Fountain Valley


    June 3, 2021 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. rv parts and service near me


    June 4, 2021 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rv mattress near me


    June 4, 2021 at 02:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. SEO Marketing Specialist

    I want to to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it. I have got you bookmarked to check out new stuff you postÖ


    June 4, 2021 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. napa auto parts near me

    This is a topic that is close to my heart... Many thanks! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    June 4, 2021 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. 2016 Sprinter Repair Shops


    June 4, 2021 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Authorized Mercedes Sprinter Service Centers Near Me


    June 4, 2021 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. rv countertop remodel


    June 4, 2021 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. rv for sale in orange county

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Thanks for supplying this info.


    June 4, 2021 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. cabela's near me

    Hello, I think your website could possibly be having internet browser compatibility issues. When I look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, fantastic blog!


    June 4, 2021 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Sprinter Tcu Repair


    June 4, 2021 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. 2006 Sprinter Tank Fuel Pump Repair

    I couldnít resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    June 4, 2021 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. perris collision

    This site certainly has all the information and facts I needed about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 4, 2021 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Internet Marketing Firm Near Me

    Right here is the perfect webpage for everyone who hopes to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject that's been discussed for years. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!


    June 5, 2021 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. togel online

    What's up to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from this site, and your
    views are pleasant for new viewers.

    June 5, 2021 at 01:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. rv restore and repair


    June 5, 2021 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. rv parts near me now


    June 5, 2021 at 02:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. church near me

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this post! It's the little changes that make the biggest changes. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 5, 2021 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Handicap Van Repair

    You should take part in a contest for one of the most useful blogs online. I most certainly will recommend this website!


    June 5, 2021 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Sprinter Mechanic

    I was able to find good advice from your articles.


    June 5, 2021 at 03:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Freightliner Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Everyone loves it whenever people come together and share thoughts. Great website, stick with it!


    June 5, 2021 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. rv plumbing leak


    June 5, 2021 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. electrical supply near me

    You've made some good points there. I looked on the web to find out more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.


    June 5, 2021 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. South Haven Michigan Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 6, 2021 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Dodge Van Frame Repair Kit

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will return yet again since i have bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.


    June 6, 2021 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. collision center of temecula temecula ca

    Everything is very open with a precise description of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!


    June 7, 2021 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Dodge Sprinter Repair Shops

    You are so interesting! I do not believe I've read a single thing like that before. So great to discover another person with a few original thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that's needed on the web, someone with a little originality!


    June 7, 2021 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. family dollar near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I honestly think this amazing site needs a great deal more attention. Iíll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!


    June 7, 2021 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. bus body shop


    June 7, 2021 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.