Brain damage may be caused by ‘heading’ in soccer

In the past we have written about the danger of sustaining head injuries when playing full contact sports such as football and hockey. It appears that another sport, soccer, is being added to the list of those potentially causing brain injuries.

Recent research, the findings on which were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), indicates moving the ball with one’s head too often could damage one’s brain. Known as “heading,” according to one doctor, in terms of causing head injuries while playing the game, this move is the most dangerous. This is in part due to players sustaining concussions when their head collides with the head of another player who is also going for the ball.

The research focused on 39 male soccer players in their late twenties and early thirties. The men played in amateur leagues regularly and had played for much of their lives. In addition to completing a questionnaire regarding the number of times they performed the move, they also underwent brain scans. In addition to issues regarding memory, the results also revealed an impact on the speed in which the brain processes.

According to the research, damage to the brain that is considered to be traumatic begins to appear after heading the ball around 1,300 times per year. While that may seem like a large number, because this move is commonly worked on at practice sessions, it is not overly inflated.

Lawsuits and the implementation of new rules have started to appear related to the full contact sports of football and hockey. Only time will tell if soccer will follow suit.

Source:, “Soccer ‘heading’ may cause brain damage,” William Hudson, Nov. 29, 2011