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RSNA: ‘Heading’ a Soccer Ball Could Lead to Brain Injury
Date:6/10/2013

Oak Brook, IL (PRWEB) June 10, 2013

Soccer players who ‘head’ the ball with high frequency demonstrate poorer performance on memory tests and have brain abnormalities similar to those found in traumatic brain injury patients, according to a study published online in the journal Radiology.

“We chose to study soccer players, because soccer is the most popular sport worldwide,” said Michael L. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and medical director of MRI at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “It is widely played by people of all ages, including children, and there is significant concern that that heading the ball—a key component of soccer—might cause damage to the brain.”

Heading, in which players field the soccer ball with their head, is an essential part of the game. Players head the ball, on average, six to 12 times during competitive games, where balls can travel at velocities of 50 miles per hour or more. During practice sessions, heading drills, where the ball is headed repeatedly up to 30 or more times, are commonplace.

Recently, the lasting effects of concussion have received widespread attention and caused growing concern among amateur and professional athletes and organizations involved in several sports. While heading may be a cause of concussion and post-concussive symptoms, studies indicate that this is not common. The clinical significance of subconcussive heading as a cause of brain injury, however, remains largely unexplored.

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

Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), an advanced MRI technique, allows researchers to assess microscopic changes in the b
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