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Original articles  SPORT PSYCHOLOGY 

The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2002 March;42(1):103-7


lingua: Inglese

Neuropsychological impairment in soccer athletes

Downs D. S., Abwender D.

From the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA *Department of Psychology, State University of New York, College at Brockport, New York, USA


Background. Soccer report­ed­ly plac­es par­tic­i­pants at ­risk for neu­ro­psy­cho­log­i­cal impair­ment, ­although it is ­unknown if the ­risk is asso­ciat­ed pri­mar­i­ly ­with con­cus­sion, sub­con­cus­sive ­blows ­from head­ing the ­ball, or ­some com­bi­na­tion there­of. Moreover, the ­extent to ­which young­er ver­sus old­er ath­letes are at ­risk for soc­cer-relat­ed cog­ni­tive impair­ment is ­unclear. We hypoth­e­sized ­that soc­cer ath­letes, espe­cial­ly old­er ­ones, ­would ­show poor­er neu­ro­psy­cho­log­i­cal ­test per­for­mance ­than com­par­able swim­mers.
Methods. Thirty-two soc­cer (26 col­lege and 6 pro­fes­sion­al) and 29 swim­mers (22 col­lege and 7 mas­ters lev­el), all ­involved for at ­least 4 ­years in ­their ­sport at col­le­giate or nation­al lev­els, par­tic­i­pat­ed. In a 2 X 2 (­sport X age cat­e­go­ry) fac­to­ri­al ­design, all par­tic­i­pants under­went 4 neu­ro­psy­cho­log­i­cal ­tests ­with 11 out­come meas­ures assess­ing ­motor ­speed, atten­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, reac­tion ­time, and con­cep­tu­al think­ing.
Results. Soccer ath­letes per­formed ­worse ­than swim­mers on meas­ures of con­cep­tu­al think­ing. The old­er soc­cer ­group in par­tic­u­lar per­formed poor­ly on meas­ures of con­cep­tu­al think­ing, reac­tion ­time, and con­cen­tra­tion. Among non-goal­tend­er soc­cer ath­letes, esti­mates of ­career expo­sure to ­brain trau­ma (­based on ­length of ­career and lev­el of ­play) pre­dict­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly poor­er ­test per­for­mance on 6 of 11 meas­ures, ­even ­after sta­tis­ti­cal­ly con­trol­ling for age.
Conclusions. Results pro­vide addi­tion­al evi­dence ­that par­tic­i­pa­tion in soc­cer may be asso­ciat­ed ­with poor­er neu­ro­psy­cho­log­i­cal per­for­mance, ­although the ­observed pat­tern of find­ings ­does not spe­cif­i­cal­ly impli­cate head­ing as the ­cause. Although def­i­cits ­were ­most appar­ent ­among old­er soc­cer ­players, seri­al neu­ro­psy­cho­log­i­cal test­ing for ear­ly detec­tion of impair­ment is rec­om­mend­ed for young­er ­players as ­well.

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