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New research into the effects of heading footballs

Mon 24 Oct 2016

New research suggesting that heading a football can have a short-term detrimental impact on a person’s cognitive functioning demands attention but caution is needed in interpreting the results, according to brain injury charity Headway.

In a paper published in the journal EBioMedicine, researchers from the University of Stirling found that heading a football 20 times in a short period of time impaired memory function by between 41% and 67%, with the effects wearing off within 24 hours. The study was based on 19 footballers all aged in their early to mid 20s.

“Any peer-reviewed study that helps us to better understand how the brain’s functioning can be affected by seemingly minor head impacts has to be looked at seriously,” said Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway.

“This small-scale study raises legitimate concerns, and will be of particular interest to the millions of parents whose children love to play the sport, but it is important to exercise caution in interpreting the results of such a small-scale study.

“Our understanding of the effects of sub-concussive impacts is increasing as more research is conducted.

“However, there remains a lack of medical consensus about the long-term implications of heading a football or whether certain age groups are at greater risk of suffering from any short-term effects.

“Large-scale longitudinal studies are needed in order for us to better understand this issue and take any action to protect players. We believe such research should be funded by the likes of the FA and Premier League.

“Sport plays a key role in keeping us fit and healthy and it’s important to address safety measures with a common sense approach that does not discourage people from taking part in sports that take a responsible approach to head injuries.”

Read more about the research on the BBC website.


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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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