Heading a soccer ball may be hard on your brain. That’s the finding from a study presented to the Radiological Society of America. 32 amateur soccer players underwent MRI brain scans. The investigators used diffusion tensor imaging and found that players who headed the ball over 1,000 times annually had alterations in the white matter of the brain. The areas that were affected are associated with vision, attention, planning, memory and organizing. A previous study of the same soccer players had shown that those who headed the ball this frequently did worse on tests of reaction time and memory. While these players were adults, they have been playing soccer since they were youngsters. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not recommended banning heading for young players, but has suggested that the maneuver should be kept to a minimum.
[Radiological Society of North America, 2011 annual meeting, Chicago]