If your kids play soccer, could there be a health risk in “heading” the ball? Show Notes

Monday, June 17, 2013 Host(s): Dr. Bill Maier
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Do you have a soccer player in your family? If so, listen up.

According to a story on Health.com, new research has found that soccer players who head the ball a lot show changes in the white matter of their brain. Those changes are similar to those seen in traumatic head injuries.

In addition, the soccer players faced a higher risk of developing thinking and memory problems.

Dr. Michael Lipton at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine was the lead researcher in the study. He says "We looked at the relationship between heading the ball and changes in the brain and changes in cognitive functions. We found that the more heading people do, the more likely we are to find microscopic structural abnormalities in the brain.”

Dr. Lipton also says the soccer players that headed the ball a lot were also more likely to do poorly on cognitive tests, particularly those that involving memory

However, he also points out that the study doesn’t prove that the heading caused these changes. For that, he says long term research is needed that follows soccer players over time.

In competitive soccer games, players head the ball between an average of six and 12 times. At the elite level, the ball can travel at velocities of more than 50 miles per hour!

By the way this isn't the first study to link heading and changes in the white matter in the brain.  Last year, Harvard researchers compared soccer players to swimmers, and found changes in the white matter of the soccer players.

If you’re wondering if you should keep your kids from heading soccer balls, Dr. Lipton says the evidence isn't clear-cut enough yet to make a firm recommendation one way or the other.

I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.

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