Primary objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between soccer heading and computerized neurocognitive performance and symptoms in female and male youth soccer players.
Research design: Cross-sectional and prospective design.
Methods and procedures: A total of 63 (27 females, 36 males) youth soccer players aged 13-18 years (M = 15.89, SD = 1.17) participated in the study. Participants completed the Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT) and symptom report.
Main outcomes: Computerized neurocognitive performance (e.g., verbal and visual memory, motor processing, and reaction time) and symptoms.
Results: There were no differences in neurocognitive performance or symptoms among low-, moderate-, and high-exposure header groups. The current sample outperformed the 10th percentile norms for neurocognitive and symptom scores. Males headed the ball more frequently and reported lower verbal and visual memory and motor processing speed scores than females.
Conclusion: The current findings did not support a relationship between soccer heading and computerized neurocognitive performance and symptoms. The researchers suggest that any purported effects of soccer heading in youth are subtle and may affect only a small number of athletes. The reported sex differences in heading exposure warrant further attention.