Review highlights importance of standardizing research techniques in soccer heading concussion studies

imageProfessional soccer players can head a ball over 1,400 times a year.

While this technique is undeniably a crucial aspect of soccer, the effects of heading on players’ brain health remain relatively unknown. In her paper "Heading in the Right Direction: A Critical Review of Studies Examining the Effects of Heading in Soccer Players," graduate student Taylor Snowden-Richardson (Christie Lab, Division of Medical Sciences, Neuroscience Graduate Program) found this may be due to a lack of standardized research techniques.

This paper is the most recent systematic review of research on the cognitive, biological, structural, and behavioural changes following short sessions of heading in youth and young adult soccer players. Over 1,000 articles were considered for this review, with 19 of those included in the full analysis. However, Snowden-Richardson and co-author Hannah Reid didn’t find conclusive results on how the technique affects the players.

Without a better understanding of what heading does to a soccer player’s brain, it’s difficult to manage potential health risks. “Our lab works with many sports teams in the Greater Victoria region, including soccer teams. It is essential to have up-to-date resources about how sport injuries affect brain development and function,” says Snowden-Richardson.

During their review, however, Snowden-Richardson and Reid noticed a lack of standardization across intervention types and analysis protocols in the studies. Their paper highlights the importance of standardizing these research techniques provides specific suggestions for future studies.

The paper also provides a summary of the current state of soccer heading research. This research includes previous contributions from Reid, who helped pioneer the Christie Lab’s work with soccer players.