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

Clin J Sport Med. 2000 Apr;10(2):104-9. doi: 10.1097/00042752-200004000-00004.


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

Design: 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.

Setting: Male and female Division I college athletes.

Participants: 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.

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

Main outcome measures: Neuropsychological tests symptom checklist compared at baseline with those after the practice sessions.

Results: 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.

Conclusions: 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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Injuries / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Soccer / injuries
  • Soccer / physiology*