This study investigated the presence of neuropsychological deficits associated with hitting the ball with one's head (heading) during soccer play. A neuro-cognitive test battery was administered to 60 male soccer players, high school, amateur and professional level, and 12 nonplaying control participants. The effects of currently reported heading behavior as well as that of estimated lifetime heading experience on neuropsychological test performance were examined. Players with the highest lifetime estimates of heading had poorer scores on scales measuring attention, concentration, cognitive flexibility and general intellectual functioning. Players' current level of heading was less predictive of neuro-cognitive level. Comparison of individual scores to age-appropriate norms revealed higher probabilities of clinical levels of impairment in players who reported greater lifetime frequencies of heading. Because of the worldwide popularity of the game, continued research is needed to assess the interaction between heading and soccer experience in the development of neuropsychological deficits associated with soccer play.

Author notes

This Paper was presented in part at the 1993 annual meeting of The National Academy of Neuropsychology. This paper was based in part on Adrienne D. Witol's master's thesis at Florida Institute of Technology. She is now at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta.