There was a correlation between poorer neuropsychological test performance and frequent heading during practice and competition in the 2 weeks prior to testing among amateur soccer players, according to recently published results. However, unintentional head impacts that occurred during soccer were not associated with cognitive performance.
Michael L. Lipton
“Recognized concussion, player collisions and falls are widely believed to be the major source of risk for short- and long-term brain injury in sports,” Michael L. Lipton, MD, PhD, FACR, professor of Radiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and medical director of MRI services at Montefiore Health System, told Healio.com/ Orthopedics. “Studies based on this premise have not considered the role of repeated impacts that do not lead to obvious injury, such as heading in soccer. Our study specifically accounted for heading, as well as collisions, falls and the number of concussions sustained over the player’s lifetime.”
He added, “We found that heading, and only heading, explained lower cognitive performance in our cohort of adult amateur players. This finding supports the notion that frequency of impacts may be more important than the type or magnitude of a given impact and many subconcussive impacts, which fly below the radar, may have great importance for the brain health of athletes.”
Lipton and colleagues recruited unintentional head impacts. All soccer players also completed neuropsychological tests which included verbal learning, verbal memory, psychomotor speed, attention and working memory. During a 2-year period, players at 3 and 6 months completed one or more identical follow-up protocols. Investigators used repeated measures general estimating equations linear models to determine if variations in the neuropsychological tests were associated with either heading or unintentional head impacts during the 2-week period before testing.
There was a correlation between poorer neuropsychological test performance and frequent heading during practice and competition in the 2 weeks prior to testing among amateur soccer players.
Results showed a significant association between heading and poorer performance on psychomotor speed and attention tasks. Investigators noted heading was borderline significant with poorer performance on working memory task. There was no significant correlation between unintentional head impacts and any neuropsychological test. According to researchers, results were not different after 22 HeadCount-2w questionnaires with reported concussive or borderline concussive symptoms were excluded. – by Monica Jaramillo
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.