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Roma's Francesco Totti heads the ball during the Europa League group E soccer match between Roma and Austria Vienna, at Rome’s Olympic Stadium Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. The match ended 3 - 3. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

A study shows heading a soccer ball can make your brain perform worse for hours


Concussions in American football (and, more recently, wrestling) tend to draw headlines. But new research published in EBioMedicine imply the "other" football might have a link to impaired brain function.

The study found that after heading a soccer ball travelilng at corner-kick speed 20 times, inhibition in the brain increased up to 67 percent. While that returned to normal by the end of the day, the researchers said it wasn't clear if that could accumulate over time.  Inhibition was measured by the amount of the chemical GABA in the brain.

But who heads a soccer ball 20 times in a row?

True, that's not exactly typical in a game. But the study authors point out it's not uncommon in a practice setting. And since many kids play soccer while their brains are still developing, it's possible that repetitive heading could have a serious impact on the brain. 

It's also worth mentioning that inhibitory chemicals like GABA can interrupt brain activity and/or make muscles make more difficult to control.

There are no known safe levels of football heading. One header is unlikely to give you brain damage, but how many headers do?
Ietswaaert, Hunter and Di Virgilio, study authors

So is soccer safe for kids?

The study's authors called their work "just a first step on the journey of finding out what is the true impact of football heading." So it's not yet clear. 

Do you think heading a soccer ball is dangerous?

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