“There is not enough information here to say that heading is universally evil or causing people to be brain damaged,” said Lipton. Ultimately, he said, it would be good to know if heading does lead to cognitive problems years later, and if that could somehow be prevented.
“I think what we need to try to understand is if continuous heading is contributing to the long-term problems of dementia or are they an epiphenomenon—something that happens but doesn’t cause any trauma or injury,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bazarian, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
Concussions in soccer are understudied, compared to football, said Bazarian, who was not involved with the new study. Technology advances such as sensors that measure hits to the head will make research easier in this area. “We’re going to see a profusion of information that’s going to be really helpful,” he said.