'Heading' the soccer ball may affect performance in cognitive tasks, states research.
Anne Sereno and colleagues from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston tested the effects of non-injurious head-to-ball impacts on cognitive function using a tablet-based app.
They found that high school female soccer players were significantly slower than non-players on a task that required pointing away from a target on the screen, but showed no difference in performance when pointing to the on-screen visual target.
According to the study, tasks that involve pointing away from a target require specific voluntary responses, whereas moving toward a target is a more reflexive response.
Based on their observations, the researchers concluded that sub-concussive blows to the head might cause changes specifically linked to certain cognitive functions.
They said that the app used in their research might be a quick and effective way to screen for and track cognitive changes in athletes. They add that a tablet-based application for such quick screens may also have broader applications in the clinic or the field.
The finding was published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.