According to researchers from New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, heading a soccer ball on a regular basis — even just a few times a day — can lead to brain damage. See Soccer players who headed the ball on a frequent basis showed similar brain injuries to patients with concussions.

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

There is increasing evidence that repetitive sub-concussive hits (e.g., heading in soccer, linemen banging heads on nearly every play in football, etc.) can have negative ramifications for brain health. It’s not just multiple concussions that can lead to brain injuries, as was once believed. These new findings are troubling for sports like soccer, in which regular sub-concussive hits to the head are part of the game.

A growing mound of studies on heading in soccer has resulted in some troubling conclusions, including a study of Italian soccer players that suggests soccer players are six times more likely to develop motor neuronal disease (MND) than the general population. sbbb

Some youth soccer associations have begun looking more seriously at head gear designed to lessen the trauma from heading, collisions and falls. The sense of urgency in this regard needs to be intensified.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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