Heading a soccer ball can lead to brain cell damage, a new study from UBC Okanagan has found. (Unsplash)

Heading soccer balls can cause damage to brain cells: UBC study

Roughly 42 per cent of children in the country play soccer, according to statistics from Heritage Canada

Tackling in football and hitting in hockey are two known concerns for concussions – but a new study suggests that less aggressive contact – such as between a soccer ball and a head – could have concerning impacts.

Repetitive impacts of a soccer ball on a player’s head could be causing damage to cells of the nervous system, a study by University of British Columbia Okanagan neuroscience professors has found.

“Soccer is unique in that playing the ball with the head is encouraged, yet players don’t wear protective headgear,” said Paul van Donkelaar, UBC Okanagan neuroscientist, in a news release.

“Although there are a growing number of studies evaluating the wisdom of this, ours is the first to measure blood biomarkers of cell injury.”

The study, released Tuesday, involved Van Donkelaar and his research team evaluating the impact of 40 headers by 11 participants, with a specific focus on the blood levels of two nerve cell enriched proteins, tau and light neurofilament. Meanwhile, participants were also asked to record any concussion symptoms.

That data was compared to an alternate set of measurements taken when participants didn’t head the soccer ball.

Researchers found that on the days when participants had headed a ball, neurofilament blood levels were higher and symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and confusion were reported. The same results were seen 22 days later.

Neurofilament has been noted by previous researchers for acting as a integral marker when detecting head injuries and acute concussions in athletes, doctoral graduate student Colin Wallace said.

Roughly 42 per cent of children in the country play soccer, according to statistics from Heritage Canada. As sports organizations look to increase safety, some U.S. soccer clubs have already moved to ban heading by players under the age of 10.

“We suggest that heading in soccer should not be overlooked as a potential way to inflict damage to nerve cells. Perhaps our findings are game changers. As in hockey and other contact sports, changes in conduct and equipment should be considered,” Wallace said.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Casey Affleck’s movie Light of My Life features Southern Interior of B.C.

Film features Academy Award and Emmy Award winners

Forest fires spotted near Greenwood and Christina Lake

Aircraft and ground crews attacked both fires on Thursday

Residents petition for pre-flood value buyout, say Grand Forks case could set B.C. precedent

A petition will be presented to the B.C. Minister of Public Safety next week

Sisters trot across Canada for guide dogs

The Keca sisters passed through the Boundary earlier this week

Cannabis category added to Grand Forks Fall Fair

Mayor to be among judges evaluating look, smell and ‘burnability’

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

U16 B.C. fastpitch team named national champs

Girls went undefeated at national tournament in Calgary

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

Most Read