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Trouble ahead

作者:晁棵    发布时间:2019-03-07 02:19:06    

By Jon Sutton A LIFETIME of heading a soccer ball could seriously damage your health. Sports scientists have found that footballers do worse than swimmers on a range of mental ability tests. What’s more, their performance seems to get worse the more they have headed the ball in their careers—a finding that could boost the cases of ex-players seeking compensation for brain damage caused by “industrial” injuries. While it is now accepted that the repeated blows to the head that boxers suffer can cause poor memory, loss of coordination and slurred speech (New Scientist, 17 May 1997, p 4), the idea that footballers can suffer similar damage from heading the ball is more controversial. To investigate, Danielle Symons and David Abwender of the University of Florida in Gainesville recruited 32 footballers and compared them to a group of swimmers. The footballers performed significantly worse on tasks assessing reaction times and quick or flexible thinking. This might just have been because the soccer players had a lower cognitive ability to start with. So the researchers related players’ performance to a “heading exposure index” based on the length and competitive level of their careers. They found that players who scored highest on this index tended to score worst in the cognitive tests. “The dose-response relationship is a lot more convincing than a lot of the existing research,” says James Nicoll, a neuropathologist at the University of Glasgow. Tom Murray, a solicitor in Glasgow, believes this finding could have important legal implications. Murray represented Billy McPhail, a player with Glasgow Celtic in the 1950s who earlier this year claimed unsuccessfully at a benefits tribunal that he had suffered brain damage from repeatedly heading the ball. “If research like this had been in the public domain at the time of the case, the decision might not have gone against us,” says Murray. Providing a conclusive assessment on the dangers posed by heading will require a long-term study, using footballers and other groups carefully matched on IQ and educational level, says Symons. However, she warns that over the course of a career, most footballers will head a ball weighing more than 400 grams and travelling at up to 120 kilometres an hour thousands of times. “Coaches should be encouraging better techniques,

 

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