Soccer is has been implicated in head and spinal injuries, both from head to head contact and also head to ball contact. Soccer heading, in which the athlete purposefully hits the ball with his/her head, has frequently led to concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries. Researchers conclude that soccer heading should also be at least somewhat related to cognitive deficits.
In a study of youth soccer, computerized cognitive tests were given to both boys and girls who had low, moderate, or high rates of soccer heading. Although the study did not find significant differences in cognition over the low, moderate, or high levels, they did find a difference between boys and girls. Girls generally performed better on cognitive tests than boys.
Past research does support that girls will perform better than boys on some, but not all, cognitive tests. This study found some factors that may be attributed directly to soccer heading. Taller players are chosen more often by their coaches to use soccer heading techniques. And, the boys also had more exposure to soccer heading than girls.
Kontos AP, Dolese A, Elbin III RJ, Covassin T, & Warren BL. Relationship of soccer heading to computerized neurocognitive performance and symptoms among female and male youth soccer players. Brain Injury. (October 2011).