Heading Soccer ball leads to brain injury

According to a study published June 11 in the journal Radiology, soccer players who frequently use their heads to field the ball have brain abnormalities that show up on MRI and that are similar to those found in people with traumatic brain injury.

Soccer balls can travel as fast as 50 miles per hour, and a player may head the ball up to a dozen times during a game.  During practices, it might be common to perform heading drills – where the ball might be bounced off of a player’s head several dozen times.  During the repeated impacts, the brain is accelerating/decerlating inside the skull.

We already know the effects of multiple concussions and how sports like north-american football are starting to grapple with those effects.  But what about impacts that don’t cause concussion like repetitive heading of a soccer ball?

Testing has shown that cognitive (memory) performance decreased in soccer players after a threshold of 1800 headings per year.  However, the changes seen in the brain on MRI show tissue changes that preceed cognitive decline at thresholds of 900 – 1500 headings per year.  The cumulative effects of repetitive minor injury might not be apparent for many years.

How can this type of cumulative brain injury be avoided?  One of the studies authors suggested that players heading counts be monitored and the players be given a recovery period once a certain number of headings has been reached.  Baseball does something similar with pitchers to save their arms/shoulders from permanent damage.

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  Filed under: Categories: Brain Scans, Brain Scans, CT Scans, Knee, MRI Scans, MSK, Orthopedic, Sport Medicine, and Sports Injuries. Tags: brain mri, head injury, MRI Vancouver, Private MRI Vancouver, and soccer injury.
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