A small study of soccer players suggests that repetitive hits to the head below the threshold for causing a traumatic brain injury may still result in changes to the brain’s white matter.
Soccer players regularly hit the ball with their head to direct it, which is referred to as “heading the ball” or a “header.” Now the study shows that the average “elite” male soccer players had a range of negative changes to their white matter architecture. Inga Koerte, MD, of Harvard Medical Schools Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory compared the brains of the soccer players to competitive swimmers, a sport with a significantly lower chance of head injuries.
No one involved in the study has a recorded concussion, the study reported in the Nov. 14 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers did suggest that “differences in head injury rates, sudden accelerations, or even lifestyle” could contribute to the differences in white matter.
The details of the study are reported at Med Page Today by Todd Neale.