Report: Soccer headers lead to brain injuries

June 11, 2013 3:44:24 PM PDT
You might not think of soccer and brain injury, but a new report says they happen.

Heading a soccer ball seems basic soccer on the pitch and even off it, players drill on heading to perfect it.

This is the first time that anyone has looked at heading and its link to brain damage.

It's a report in the Journal Radiology, and it found heading can produce mini concussions time after time in the brain.

"Those who headed more during the past year had similar changes in the brain to those that had mild traumatic brain injury as well as problems with memory," said Dr. Michael Lipton with Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

He's talking about his report released today which followed about 40 adult amateur soccer players over a year. Patients had special MRI's to see the brain damage to the fine wiring of the brain's nerves, here in color.

"You can see that the abnormalities are in the back part of the brain, sort of behind your ear," adds Dr. Lipton.

Abnormalities which also reduced memory function.

There was an interesting finding in the report, a threshold for injury, 1,200 headers in a year. Below that, no problem, above that, brain damage.

Below a thousand per year, the brain appears to repair itself but not above that number.

That has to be studied, and Dr. Lipton is now enrolling adults to do a larger investigation on the link between heading and brain injury.