HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) – Soccer players literally use their heads to try to win games, but experts worry that all of these so-called “heading” the ball could lead to memory and impulse problems.
Studies show that girls playing soccer suffer about twice as many concussions as boys, but not much research has been done to determine the effects of repeatedly heading the ball which produces a sub-conscious blow.
University of Texas neuroscientist, Anne Sereno, led an iPad-based experiment to test the impact of “ball heading” among girl varsity soccer players.
“It was very surprising and this is a very important topic right now,” Sereno says.
Her team developed a simple iPad app to measure cognitive function.
“You have to hole the center. When the target appears, you go as fast as possible. That’s it. There’s 48 trials, but the only difference in the other task is that you go to the center and you’re told to go opposite, and I have to go opposite,” Sereno says.
Sereno tester 12 varsity girls between 15 and 18 years old, right after practice and compared their results to 12 girls in non-contact sports.
She found small, but significant changes, “consistent with mild, traumatic brain injury.”
“So very small 30-50 million changes to their responses specifically to tasks that require cognitive, but not for more simple tasks.”
Sereno says more research would be needed to determine if those slight changes were long lasting. She says she hope the iPad app could be further developed to be used as a tool in the field, in emergency rooms and even at home.