Do soccer players show enhanced thinking abilities?
April 4th, 2012
05:02 PM ET

Do soccer players show enhanced thinking abilities?

Hey soccer fans, here's something to think about at the next game: The best players may be quicker thinkers than you.

A study led by Swedish researchers suggests that elite soccer players outperform players in lower divisions in tests of certain cognitive abilities, and both groups bested the general public. The results were published recently in the journal PLoS ONE.

Specifically, the study focused on executive function, which is involved in working memory. Whenever you bring forth a memory that you need to solve a task, such as make a phone call or tie your shoe, that's working memory in action. Executive function is also involved in creativity, multi-tasking and inhibition.

"The successful player must constantly assess the situation, compare it to past experiences, create new possibilities, make quick decisions to action, but also quickly inhibit planned decisions," the authors write.

The phenomenon has not been studied in detail before with regard to professional athletes. But previous research showed expert sports players have enhanced abilities in things like evaluating probabilities, recognizing patterns and using information from peripheral vision.

Participants in the Swedish study included 57 males and 26 females, all soccer players from the country's top three national division soccer leagues. The players took cognitive function tests, which had well-established average scores for the general population in the fall of 2007.

Information about the players' goals and assists was obtained from January 2008 to May 2010. The Swedish researchers then looked back at the players' test scores to see if cognitive function could help predict later performance.

It turned out that higher performance on the cognitive test was correlated with the subsequent performance of the players, based on a subsample of the original group.

The theory is that playing soccer may have improved the players' executive function. But they wouldn't have been able to get to such a high level of professionalism if they hadn't already been good at these mental tasks, said study co-author Predrag Petrovic of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Should soccer players be recruited on the basis of cognitive tests like these?

The study points in that direction, but the number of participants is small, and the conclusions do not prove causality. It's a question for further research whether playing soccer causes better cognitive processing, or if cognitive processing leads to better soccer performance. This study also does not say anything about the genetic component of mental or athletic performance.

Bradley Hatfield, professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, who has researched the link between executive function and exercise independently of Petrovic's group, says the study is based on a reasonable conceptual model. It doesn't make definitive statements about the role of these brain processes in soccer success, but its suggestions are plausible based on research that has come before it, Hatfield said in an e-mail.

"I think it's relevant to the public interest, and the quality of the work is supported by its appearance in a peer-reviewed journal," he said.

But Mark Williams, professor of motor behavior at Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom, is more skeptical. He points out that since cognitive abilities have been previously shown to be correlated with aerobic capacity, it's possible that the most elite athletes performed better on tests because they are more physically fit.

On the whole, more research must be done before definitive conclusions can be made.

soundoff (1,049 Responses)
  1. Antoine Stcharles

    I don't know about you people but I am obsessed with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/02/happy-presidents-day-a-look-at-air-force-one/


    June 13, 2021 at 07:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. verizon wireless near me

    This page certainly has all the information I needed concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 13, 2021 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. nintendo switch near me


    June 13, 2021 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. bdtv hd

    Thẳng Soccer Hôm Naylịch thi đấu copa america nam mỹNếu cứ chơi như cách vừa đè bẹp Everton tới 3-1 trên Sảnh quý khách hàng


    June 13, 2021 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. CrulkAsd

    cialis kaufen mit paypal zahlen i want to buy cialis in the uk brand cialis us

    June 13, 2021 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ophthalmologist near me

    This is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Simple but very accurate informationÖ Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!


    June 13, 2021 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. popeyes near me

    After going over a handful of the blog articles on your site, I really like your way of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my website too and let me know what you think.


    June 13, 2021 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. lenscrafters near me

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Thanks!


    June 13, 2021 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. starbucks near me


    June 13, 2021 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jack in the box near me


    June 13, 2021 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. protests near me

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


    June 14, 2021 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mechanic near me


    June 14, 2021 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. panera near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe this website needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!


    June 14, 2021 at 01:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. gun stores near me

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


    June 14, 2021 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. tv repair near me

    I like it when folks get together and share opinions. Great blog, keep it up!


    June 14, 2021 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. dominos near me

    This is the perfect blog for everyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject that has been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just great!


    June 14, 2021 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repairs Near My Location


    June 14, 2021 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Camper Repair Shop Near Me


    June 14, 2021 at 23:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Repair Huntington Beach


    June 14, 2021 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Nearest RV Repair


    June 14, 2021 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Repair Orange County California

    Excellent site you have here.. Itís difficult to find high quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 15, 2021 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bxh premier league

    Xoilac Tv Trực Tiếp Soccerbxh nhaXem soccer trực tuyến Trực tiếp Odd BK vs Sarpsborg, 20h ngày 24/5, giải VĐQG Na Uy. Xem lịch phạt sóng thẳng soccer EURO ngày hôm nay được Webthethao cập nhật chính xác nhất.


    June 15, 2021 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Repair Shop


    June 15, 2021 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Camper Repair Places Near Me

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It's always helpful to read content from other authors and use a little something from other web sites.


    June 15, 2021 at 03:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Camper Repair Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Shops Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 05:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair California


    June 15, 2021 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repair Shop

    I wanted to thank you for this very good read!! I certainly loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you postÖ


    June 15, 2021 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Repair Near My Location

    That is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise informationÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 15, 2021 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repairs Near Me

    Very nice blog post. I definitely love this website. Stick with it!


    June 16, 2021 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. htv2 trực tuyến

    Xoilac Tv Trực Tiếp Bóng Đábet168Xem bóng đá trực tuyến Trực tiếp Odd BK vs Sarpsborg, 20h ngày 24/5, giải VĐQG Na Uy. Xem lịch phát sóng thẳng soccer EURO hôm nay được Webthethao cập nhật chủ yếu xác nhất.


    June 16, 2021 at 05:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 16, 2021 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up plus the rest of the website is very good.


    June 16, 2021 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sprinter Repair Orange County

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


    June 16, 2021 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Repair Shop


    June 16, 2021 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. mexican near me

    You're so awesome! I do not think I have read something like that before. So wonderful to find somebody with unique thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is required on the web, someone with some originality!


    June 16, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. cell phone repair near me


    June 16, 2021 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. gnc near me

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful post. Thank you for providing this info.


    June 16, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. food delivery near me

    Saved as a favorite, I really like your web site!


    June 16, 2021 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. puppies for sale near me


    June 16, 2021 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. keo nha cai

    Xem Trực Tiếp Viettel Vs Bình Dương Trên V League 2021 Ở Kênh Nào? bk8Đội tuyển chọn Việt Nam chỉ cần một kết trái hòa có bàn thắng để lần thứ hai góp mặt tại World Cup futsal. Nhưng, nhằm làm được như vậy


    June 16, 2021 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. breakfast near me


    June 16, 2021 at 23:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Repair Garden Grove


    June 17, 2021 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Repair


    June 17, 2021 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. bank near me


    June 17, 2021 at 00:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Repair Santa Ana


    June 17, 2021 at 01:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. bank of america atm near me

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


    June 17, 2021 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. buy here pay here near me


    June 17, 2021 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Repair


    June 17, 2021 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 17, 2021 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

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.