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Frequent 'heading' in soccer can lead to brain injury and cognitive impairment
Date:11/28/2011

November 29, 2011 (BRONX, NY) Using advanced imaging techniques and cognitive tests, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center , the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, have shown that repeatedly heading a soccer ball increases the risk for brain injury and cognitive impairment. The imaging portion of the findings was presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago.

The researchers used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), an advanced MRI-based imaging technique, on 38 amateur soccer players (average age: 30.8 years) who had all played the sport since childhood. They were asked to recall the number of times they headed the ball during the past year. (Heading is when players deliberately hit or field the soccer ball with their head.) Researchers ranked the players based on heading frequency and then compared the brain images of the most frequent headers with those of the remaining players. They found that frequent headers showed brain injury similar to that seen in patients with concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The findings are especially concerning given that soccer is the world's most popular sport with popularity growing in the U.S., especially among children. Of the 18 million Americans who play soccer, 78 percent are under the age of eighteen. Soccer balls are known to travel at speeds as high as 34 miles per hour during recreational play, and more than twice that during professional play.

After confirming the potentially damaging impact of frequent heading, "Our goal was to determine if there is a threshold level for heading frequency that, when surpassed, resulted in detectable brain injury," said
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Contact: Kim Newman
sciencenews@einstein.yu.edu
718-430-3101
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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