By Ken Reed

A new study concludes that heading in soccer can cause brain damage.

The United Kingdom study, published by EBioMedicine, is the first to detect neurological changes caused by sub-concussive impacts such as heading. Changes in motor response and memory were observed in the study participants, ages 19 to 25.

“For the first time, sporting bodies and members of the public can see clear evidence of the risks associated with repetitive impact caused by heading a soccer ball,” said Angus Hunter of the University of Stirling in Scotland in a statement released with the study.

As pointed out by Washington Post reporter Amy Ellis Nutt, this study adds to the growing mound of research on brain trauma and concussions in soccer, including studies that revealed the following:

* Soccer players are prone to traumatic brain injury, with 22 percent of all injuries being concussions.

* Changes in brain anatomy of soccer players – particularly, a thinning of the cortex – is associated with slower cognition.

* Molecular markers of brain damage are significantly elevated in response to heading by male professional soccer players.

Hunter hopes the new findings help spur sports stakeholders to explore every possible way to protect the brains of our athletes.

“We need to safeguard the long-term health of soccer players at all levels, as well as individuals involved in other contract sports,” concluded Hunter.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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