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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2005 Apr;27(3):299-319.

Neuropsychological impairment as a consequence of football (soccer) play and football heading: preliminary analyses and report on university footballers.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST55BG, UK. a.rutherford@psy.keele.ac.uk

Abstract

Previous research has claimed neuropsychological impairment occurs as a result of professional and amateur football play, and, specifically, football heading. However, much of this research exhibits substantial methodological problems. By investigating less committed amateur level footballers, the current study sought to gain some insight into the developmental history of any neuropsychological consequences of football play. University football, rugby and noncontact sports players were compared on a range of biographical and neuropsychological test variables. While playing their chosen sports, rugby players sustained many more head injuries than footballers and noncontact sportsmen, but footballers did not sustain significantly more head injuries than noncontact sportsmen. The number of head injuries sustained predicted Trails B and TAP Divided Attention latencies in a positive fashion. After controlling for the number of head injuries sustained, sport group effects were detected with TAP Divided Attention accuracy scores, with footballers exhibiting poorest performance. After controlling for the number of head injuries sustained, the total amount of heading done by footballers predicted the number of Wisconsin Card Sorting category shifts in a negative fashion. Nevertheless, over interpretation of all of these results should be resisted because of the exploratory nature of the analyses and the possibility that the sport groups may differ in ways other than just the nature of their sports activities.

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