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 (237 Responses)
  1. FbsgZisse

    cialis buy australia online http://llecialisjaw.com/ cialis switzerland

    February 13, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. frolep rotrem

    I went over this internet site and I conceive you have a lot of great info , saved to favorites (:.


    February 14, 2021 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. High-Do-Follow Forum-Backlinks

    Best Social Media Services and Website Traffic Services 2021: https://www.seoclerk.com/user/jackpower99


    February 16, 2021 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. AhbzEncox

    cash advance m t earnest money if loan not approved advance cash america loan

    February 16, 2021 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JbbnEncox

    preço generico do cialis cialis 10 mg packungsbeilage cialis with atenolol

    February 17, 2021 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. FqbbEncox

    cash advance payday loans greensboro nc k24 cash loans 30 day money loan

    February 17, 2021 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ILove Nardil

    Nardil is known as the "Gold Standard" for social anxiety. It literally cured mine.


    February 19, 2021 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. KndnMile

    how long for viagra to kick in how does viagra work cialis vs. viagra

    February 26, 2021 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. NbmoZisse

    cialis suppliers http://buycialisxz.com/ buy cialis asap

    February 27, 2021 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. canadian pharmacy viagra

    https://genericviagragog.com viagra generic name

    February 27, 2021 at 20:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ClarkTauts

    i7n2g yi9l0 f5dw

    February 28, 2021 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. FjjuZisse

    does viagra help you last longer http://viagraonlinejc.com/ where to buy generic viagra

    February 28, 2021 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dorsey Kersch

    Thanks, I have recently been looking for information about this topic for ages and yours is the best I have came upon so far. However, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you sure in regards to the supply?


    March 6, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. zortilo nrel

    Good V I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs and related information ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, web site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task..


    March 21, 2021 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. LmoppEncox

    http://essaywriteris.com/ – best online essay writer write my essays best online essay writers cheap essay writer

    March 22, 2021 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. KbdnMile

    https://papersonlinebox.com/ – online paper writing service where to buy resume paper online paper writing services buy school papers

    March 23, 2021 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Talitha Roskop

    There are actually plenty of details like that to take into consideration. That is a nice level to convey up. I provide the thoughts above as basic inspiration however clearly there are questions like the one you deliver up the place the most important factor can be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged round things like that, however I am certain that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both girls and boys feel the affect of only a second’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.


    March 24, 2021 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Gerry Ziller

    Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group? There's a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you


    March 24, 2021 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Nevada Daum

    This is a topic close to my heart cheers, where are your contact details though?


    March 24, 2021 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. BrfgMile

    https://ljcialishe.com/ – cialis sublingual https://cialisvja.com/ – what doe cialis look like https://viagraonlinejc.com/ – buy viagra on line https://viagratx.com/ – mail order viagra https://buycialisxz.com/ – overnight cialis

    March 24, 2021 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Ned Mccallum

    Great site. Plenty of helpful information here. I’m sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you to your sweat!


    March 24, 2021 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. GrvCrulk

    https://kloviagrli.com/ – what was viagra originally used for https://vigedon.com/ – what do viagra pills look like https://llecialisjaw.com/ – were can i buy cialis https://jwcialislrt.com/ – cialis dosage reddit https://jecialisbn.com/ – cialis generic canada

    March 26, 2021 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JvqqEncox

    https://dissertationahelp.com/ – dissertation chapters writing dissertation dissertation methodology writing a dissertation

    March 27, 2021 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. MEndugpneup

    pharmacie de garde caen psychologue therapie de couple uccle Viagra Generico Viagra generico Espana , emploi pharmacien aix en provence. pharmacie ouverte le dimanche pharmacie beaulieu wattrelos medicaments xls medical , pharmacie mergui boulogne-billancourt. pharmacie ouverte oloron pharmacie herboristerie annecy pharmacie fins annecy environments early childhood ohio pharmacie beaulieu restinclieres suisse generico b0b9843 , pharmacie leclerc les herbiers therapie cognitivo comportementale montreal .

    March 28, 2021 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. injectable drug for erectile dysfunction

    how to adminiter transurethral alprostadil https://alprostadildrugs.com/ muse injection

    April 12, 2021 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. canadian weight loss pills

    canadian generic pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian pills online

    April 13, 2021 at 05:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. canadian pills online

    canadian pills online https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian pills pharmacy

    April 14, 2021 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4

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.