ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Head Injuries Soccer - Brain Damage to Children from Heading

Updated on November 15, 2016
janderson99 profile image

Dr. John applies his scientific & research skills to review and evaluate new trends in sports, games, rules and to review training methods.

Does the repeated heading of balls by soccer players cause head injuries and damage to the brain? This has often concerned many parents of children who play soccer and recently research has suggested that this concern is justified. These concerns have arisen when there has been similar concerns about head injuries in other football codes and ice hockey.

Researchers in New York at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine conducted a study of 34 men and women soccer-playing adults who had played soccer since childhood and were active soccer players. A questionnaire was used to estimate the number of times that each player had headed a soccer ball in the previous 12 months. They were also asked whether they had showed any symptoms of concussions in their careers.

In the research study, the soccer players also undertook brain function and memory tests. MRI techniques were used to look for structural changes in the brain of soccer players that could be related to the frequency with which they headed the ball.

Heading a soccer ball can cause injuries to the brain especially when it is done incorrectly by children.
Heading a soccer ball can cause injuries to the brain especially when it is done incorrectly by children. | Source

The study found that players who headed the ball in the last 12 months more than about 1,100 times showed significant signs of structural damage in their brains. The sites affected were in brain areas associated with attention, memory and the processing of visual information. Players who headed the ball less than 1000 times a year showed no signs of brain damage.

The type and location of white matter loss was shown to resemble that shown by people who had traumatic brain injuries such as a serious concussion. However only one of the players had reported concussions in their questionnaires .

Players who had headed the ball more frequently in past year also significantly reduced cognitive ability as shown by a decline in accuracy for recalling lists of words read to them.

Concern about the effect of heading on brains has been expressed for many years but it has been hard to establish cause and effect as well as to quantify the relative amount of heading. Similar concerns have been raised about the current study because the heading frequency was based on questionnaires and the role of head clashes and other bangs to heads when playing soccer has not been assessed. The structural damage could have been caused by non-heading impacts to the head during soccer games. Questionnaires are an unreliable way of estimating heading frequency. Likewise the results could have causes unrelated to soccer. Perhaps soccer players who head the ball more frequently may drink more heavily because they score more goals! Similarly layers who head the ball more frequently may bang their heads more often in ways not related to heading the ball.

A study conducted in the late 1990s showed that retired, professional Scandinavian soccer players had signs of brain damage. However these studies were criticised because of doubts about how the heading frequency data and the failure to eliminate alcohol use or severe concussions as possible causes of the findings.

Elizabeth Larson, a scientist at Humboldt State University, in California, monitored the heading history and brain function of 51 female and male soccer players throughout a soccer season. She found that the players who headed the ball more frequently (during practices or in games) had lower scores on tests of visual memory, including recalling images and shapes, at the end of the season than at the beginning. Players who headed more often also reported more episodes of dizziness and headaches than other players. However, none of the players with poor cognitive test scores had reported any memory problems and the effects were described as 'subtle' by the researchers.

So what should be Done

Obviously more research is required with better controls and information about heading frequency. The research shows that there appears to be a threshold. and that heading the ball less than 1,100 times a year, which is a relatively high number (40 times a week, for a 6-month season) appears to be safe. Although the study did not involve children, the researchers suggested that as a precaution kids younger than 12 should not be heading, given their immaturity. They also recommended parents should monitor the number of heading repetitions. Also parents should look or any symptoms such as headaches or dizziness after practice and games. They also suggested that the frequency of heading drills during practice should be reduced, with careful attention on how to head a ball properly.

© janderson99-HubPages


More research is needed on the effects of heading of the ball on the brain especially in children.

© 2011 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • Healthy Pursuits profile image

    Karla Iverson 

    6 years ago from Oregon

    Good job! If I was the parent of a child who wanted to play soccer, I'd insist on headgear.

    The following study (in the "other sections" part) discusses the effect of heading as comparable to receiving blows to the head in boxing. I thought you might like to see it.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)