Heading a football 'can cause brain damage and affect thinking'
Heading a football is classed as a 'minor sub-concussive blow' and can cause brain damageYoung people who play the game are less able to perform some tasks requiring basic thinking skills
22:27 GMT, 27 February 2013
22:27 GMT, 27 February 2013
It is well known that playing the beautiful game can increase fitness.
But heading a football could in fact cause brain damage, scientists are warning.
Researchers at the University of Texas say that a header is classed as a 'minor sub-concussive blow' and have found that young people who play football are less able to perform tasks requiring basic thinking skills than those who avoid the game.
Heading a football is classed as a minor sub-concussive blow and can cause brain damage, scientists are warning
In a series of computer games, the scientists pitted female secondary school students who play football against those who did not.
The results, which were published in journal PLoS ONE, showed that the players were ‘significantly slower’ at a task that required pointing away from an on-screen target than non-players.
Study author Dr Anne Serrano said impacts such as those experienced by heading a football during a match could be responsible for the difference.
She explained: ‘Tasks that involve pointing away from a target require specific voluntary responses, whereas moving toward a target is a more reflexive response.
‘We think that sub-concussive blows to the head may cause changes to certain cognitive functions.’
Young people who play football are less able to perform tasks requiring basic thinking skills than those who avoid the game
However, it was not all bad news for footballers, as results also showed they were just as capable at a task which required them to point at an on-screen target.
Dr Serrano hailed the findings as a means of identifying possible neural disorders caused by playing sport.
She said: ‘The app used in our research may be a quick and effective way to screen for and track cognitive changes in athletes – it could also have broader applications in clinics or out in the field.’
This study comes just months after an extensive study of the brains of American football players showed than the majority had signs of brain damage as a result of repeated head injuries.
The study, carried out by the Boston University School of Medicine, posthumously tested the brains of 50 footballers.
It found a link between head injuries suffered in the heavy-impact sport and degenerative brain disease.
The study, which included stars such as Dave Duerson, Cookie Gilchrist and John Mackey, found widespread evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The disease can lead to sufferers experiencing memory loss, dementia and depression.