Navigation Links
Frequent 'heading' in soccer can lead to brain injury and cognitive impairment

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 lead author Michael Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. , director of Einstein's Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center and medical director of MRI services at Montefiore. Further analysis revealed a threshold level of approximately 1,000 to 1,500 heads per year. Once players in the study exceeded that number, researchers observed significant injury.

"While heading a ball 1,000 or 1,500 times a year may seem high to those who don't participate in the sport, it only amounts to a few times a day for a regular player," observed Dr. Lipton, who is also associate professor of radiology, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences ), and of the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience at Einstein.

"Heading a soccer ball is not an impact of a magnitude that will lacerate nerve fibers in the brain," said Dr. Lipton. "But repetitive heading may set off a cascade of responses that can lead to degeneration of brain cells."

Researchers identified five areas, in the frontal lobe (behind the forehead) and in the temporo-occipital region (the bottom-rear areas) of the brain that were affected by frequent heading areas that are responsible for attention, memory, executive functioning and higher-order visual functions. In a related study, Dr. Lipton and colleague Molly Zimmerman, Ph.D. , assistant professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein, gave the same 38 amateur soccer players tests designed to assess their neuropsychological function. Players with the highest annual heading frequency performed worse on tests of verbal memory and psychomotor speed (activities that require mind-body coordination, like throwing a ball) relative to their peers.

"These two studies present compelling evidence that brain injury and cognitive impairment can result from heading a soccer ball with high frequency," Dr. Lipton said. "These are findings that should be taken into consideration in planning future research to develop approaches to protect soccer players."

Heading is an essential part of soccer and is unlikely to be eliminated from practice or play.

As there appears to be a safe range for heading frequency, additional research can help refine this number, which can then be used to establish heading guidelines. As in other sports, the frequency of potentially harmful actions in practice and games could be monitored and restricted based on confirmed unsafe exposure thresholds.

"In the past, pitchers in Little League Baseball sustained shoulder injuries at a rate that was alarming," Dr. Lipton noted. "But ongoing research has helped shape various approaches, including limits on the amount of pitching a child performs, which have substantially reduced the incidence of these injuries."

"Brain injury due to heading in children, if we confirm that it occurs, may not show up on our radar because the impairment will not be immediate and can easily be attributed to other causes like ADHD or learning disabilities," continued Dr. Lipton. "We, including the agencies that supervise and encourage soccer play, need to do the further research to precisely define the impact of excessive heading on children and adults in order to develop parameters within which soccer play will be safe over the long term."


Contact: Kim Newman
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Related medicine news :

1. Less Frequent Mammograms May Lower False-Positive Results
2. Frequent doctor visits benefits patients with diabetes
3. More Frequent Doctor Visits May Benefit Diabetes Patients
4. Frequent Tests Help Track Progression of Glaucoma, Study Finds
5. ERs Frequented by Kids With Behavioral Problems: Report
6. Frequent moderate drinking of alcohol is associated with a lower risk of fatty liver disease
7. Large study finds CT scans are frequently unnecessary after head injury in children
8. Frequent Business Travel Tough on the Heart, Study Finds
9. Frequently hospitalized patients may benefit from new medical specialty focused on their needs
10. Intellectual disability is frequently caused by non-hereditary genetic problems
11. Study: Infrequent Sex Can Raise Risk of Heart Attack, Death
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/30/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 30, ... ... two new additions to its industry-leading suite of automated breast density assessment ... North America (RSNA) meeting, November 29-December 4, 2015 (South Hall booth #2377). ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... 2015 , ... Holcomb – Kreithen Plastic Surgery and ... in Florida, is proud to announce that Dr. Joshua Kreithen, one of its ... a Johnson & Johnson Company. , Ethicon is a global medical device company ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... ... The successful filing of an Investigational New Drug application (IND) is a ... key industry segment, Regis Technologies has decided to sponsor and participate in an XTalks-hosted ... , Federal law does not allow new drugs to cross state lines until it ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 30, 2015 , ... ... the assets of DataTrade Solutions Inc., a Healthcare IT consulting, development and support ... the programming and technical experience available within DataTrade to extend the services currently ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... 2015 , ... GKhair & Tibolli team members and artists were excited and ... November 8th and 9th at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, San Juan Puerto Rico. ... top of the line fashion journalists. The San Juan Beauty Show carries immense credibility ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... November 30, 2015 --> ... "Dental Lasers Market by Product (Soft Tissue, All Tissue, Dental ... (Hospitals, Clinics), and Geography - Global Forecast to 2020", published ... 2020, at a CAGR of 5.2% during the forecast period ... data Tables and 62 Figures spread through 167 P ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... 2015  PTS Diagnostics, the U.S.-based manufacturer of point-of-care ... A1CNow ® systems, and PTS Detect™ cotinine systems, ... that will propel the company into the mHealth market. ... Europe . The technology is a system that ... smartphones and tablets, and uses test strip technology already ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Nov. 30, 2015 Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ... the development of oral drug delivery systems, announced today ... at up to $50,000,000 with Hefei Tianhui Incubator of Technologies Co., Ltd. ... capsule, ORMD-0801, in China , ... . The agreements were signed at the Israel ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: