Heading the football repeatedly during a match could cause significant memory problems in players for up to a day, scientists have found. Researchers asked a group of football players to head a ball 20 times fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. They tested the players’ brain function and memory before and after the experiment. After a single session of heading they found that memory test performance fell by between 41 and 67 per cent.
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“Using a drill most amateur and professional teams would be familiar with, we found there was in fact increased inhibition in the brain immediately after heading and that performance on memory tests was reduced significantly,” said Magdalena Ietswaart from the University of Stirling in the UK.
“Although the changes were temporary, we believe they are significant to brain health, particularly if they happen over and over again as they do in football heading,” Ietswaart was quoted as saying by ‘The Telegraph’.
It is unclear whether the changes to memory would still remain temporary after repeated exposure to heading the ball over a long period of time, researchers said.
Concussions suffered in sport have been linked to neurodegenerative disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain, they said.
The results were published in the journal EBioMedicine.