Study suggests heading soccer balls can lead to brain injuries - KCTV5

Study suggests heading soccer balls can lead to brain injuries

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KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

A study suggesting heading soccer balls can lead to brain injury has ignited a firestorm in the world of athletics.

Albert Einstein Medical School in New York City recruited 37 men and women who have played soccer since they were children for the study. The school said on average, soccer players head the ball six to 12 times during games, where balls can travel at speeds of more than 50 mph. During practice drills, players commonly head the ball 30 or more times.

The impact from a single heading is unlikely to cause traumatic brain damage such as laceration of nerve fibers. But scientists have worried that cumulative damage from the repeated subconcussive impacts of heading might be clinically significant.

Some Kansas City area experts and those involved in professional soccer believe heading gets unfairly tagged as a dangerous move.

Chet North, athletic trainer for Sporting KC, said heading may lead to a concussion "but there are so many things that may."

He questions the study's fairness.

"In reading that, I think soccer gets an unfair rap because you're looking at a ball going really fast and without saying what the ball does in regards to absorbing the pressure when it hits the head," North said.

He added that Major League Soccer does take head trauma quite seriously.

The New York Times reported that players who headed the ball more than 1,100 times in the previous year showed significant deterioration in brain functions like memory, attentiveness and processing of visual information.The players also had trouble recalling word lists and forgot or fumbled for words far more often than players who headed the ball less often.

The study said this was similar to a serious concussion even though only one of the players had ever experienced a concussion. Verbal and visual recall is affected by frequent heading, the newspaper reported.

One suggestion is that adolescents under 12 not head at all, and repeated heading and any possible symptoms should be monitored in older children. This includes headaches and dizziness.

Dr. Randy Goldstein of the University of Kansas Hospital is skeptical of the New York study. Goldstein, who specializes in sports medicine, said it was a very small study with just over three dozen participants.

"That is a very small amount of people to be able to base information on whether we should be heading the ball or not," Goldstein said.

The doctor said researchers are experimenting with a cutting-edge imaging machine and its findings are too premature to draw any conclusions.

"I think we're putting a lot of blame on heading the ball and putting all of those pictures related to that without knowing the whole story," Goldstein said.

An experimental head band claims to act as a helmet for soccer plays, but Goldstein says there is no scientific evidence of its affect.

To see the study, click here.

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