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Clin J Sport Med. 2000 Apr;10(2):104-9.

The acute neuropsychological effects of heading in soccer: a pilot study.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Penn State Geisinger Health System, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA.



The main objective of this study was to prospectively examine the acute effects of heading in soccer on cognitive function.


This was a prospective cross-over study using a brief neuropsychological battery to assess cognitive function. The tests were performed before and after two separate practice sessions, with athletes serving as their own controls.


Male and female Division I college athletes.


Members of the men's and women's varsity collegiate Penn State University soccer teams. Forty-four males and 56 females entered and finished the study. All athletes had a normal physical examination.


Before and after both practice sessions, all athletes had a brief battery of neuropsychological tests and a symptom checklist.


Neuropsychological tests symptom checklist compared at baseline with those after the practice sessions.


There were no significant differences in pretest scores between groups and no difference on posttest scores between heading and nonheading groups. A significant difference was detected using MANOVA (p = < 0.001) between pre- and posttest scores for measures of attention and concentration, indicating a practice effect. A gender-specific effect in one test measuring attention and concentration was found. There was no difference in symptoms before and after heading as compared with exertional controls.


In this study, soccer players heading the ball does not appear to lead to acute changes in cognitive function as assessed by a brief neuropsychological battery. There are practice effects that occur with repetitive neuropsychological testing and gender differences with certain tests.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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