The People's Perspective on Medicine

Heading Soccer Ball May Batter Brain

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]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Heading Soccer Ball info was interesting. My husband played a lot of soccer into his late 40’s and was good at heading the ball, even wet, muddy balls. He used to get bad headaches. Could heading the ball contribute to headaches? He has had narcolepsy for many years. Could that condition be aggravated by heading the ball? Thanks.

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