New evidence is making it more and more clear that heading a soccer ball could be a problem over a prolonged period of time. Previous research has suggested this, and now researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University are taking that study further.
“It’s not only the overt concussions where someone is knocked out and clearly knows that an injury has happened, but perhaps more mild impacts, especially if they accumulate over a period of time, that might have an additive effect,” says Dr. Michael Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Lipton’s team examined 39 soccer players over a year, assessing how much heading they had done, and testing their cognitive skills. They also underwent MRI scans of their brains, according to NY1.com.
The good news out of the study is that all heading doesn’t appear to be causing brain damage. It is when people are hitting their head with a ball too much that it becomes a problem, specifically when they begin to exceeding 1,400 or 1,500 headings a year.
“What we’re seeing is that more heading is associated with changes in the brain and brain function, which are characteristic with what we sometimes see with people with brain injuries,” says Lipton.
We still don’t understand the relationship between these “subconcussive” hits and brain injury over time but this problem at least appears manageable over time with research and new guidelines. Whether it be more rest times between heading the ball, or possibly just limiting how much of it goes on, soccer is still in an enviable position compared to football’s brain injury situation.
Lipton is hoping to expand his study to roughly 500 participants, with plans to start this summer.