Heading a football may affect cognitive performance

HeadingSports-induced head injuries are a rising concern and a new study suggests that even heading a football could cause changes in performance on specific cognitive tasks.

This new finding was published in the journal PLoS ONE and outlines an iPad-based experiment involving femail footballers that showed sub-concussive head impacts in football affects athletes’ performance on cognitive tasks.

The team of researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston examined the effects of non-injurious head-to-ball contacts on cognitive function and found that football players were much slower than non-players on a task that forced them to point away from a target on the screen, although no difference was seen during a task of pointing to the on-screen visual target.

Cognitive tasks that consist of point away from a target require certain voluntary responses, while going toward a target is a reflexive response.

Sub-concussive actions such as heading a football can result in cognitive function changes that are the same as mild traumatic brain injury of the frontal lobes.

It is well known that more serious contacts resulting in actual concussion can have effects that persist for several years, even decades.

More research is required to track football players for longer periods to examine whether these changes are temporary or permanent, whether they are reliant on repeated sub-concussive blows and whether they have the same implications for male footballers.

Source: PLoS ONE

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