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Effect of Soccer Heading on Intracranial Pressure and Cerebral Perfusion Pressure in Athletes


Regular participation in head contact sports is linked to risks of developing neurodegenerative disease. Studies have demonstrated the structural changes that may occur after soccer heading but the effects of soccer heading on intracranial pressure (ICP) in still unknown. In the following study, we tested the hypothesis that repeated soccer heading will cause a transient increase in ICP and a change in cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP).

ICP changes were measured in eight male subjects from the UC San Diego Men’s Soccer team by recording acoustical evoked tympanic membrane displacement through a Cerebral Cochlear Fluid Pressure (CCFP) Analyzer (Marchbanks, UK).

Mean arterial pressure (MAP) and heart rate (HR) was recorded using the volume clamp method (Nexfin, Netherlands). ICP and cardiovascular variables were measured before the soccer heading trial, immediately after soccer heading trial, and 24 hours after the soccer heading trial. During each measurement, ICP and cardiovascular variables were recorded in three different postures, 15° head up tilt (HUT), 0° supine, -15° head down tilt (HDT), in a randomized order.

During the soccer heading trial, a soccer ball was kicked to the subject from 35 yards away and the subject then headed the ball into a soccer goal. This was repeated for a total of 6 headers.

After soccer heading, ICP significantly increased at 15° HUT and 0° supine immediately post heading and returned back to baseline levels after 24 hours. ICP at -15° HDT, and MAP and HR at all positions did not significantly change at any point after soccer heading. This increase in ICP and unchanged MAP points to a decrease in CPP, implying compromised perfusion of cerebral tissue and potentially suggesting a risk in participating in head contact sports like soccer.

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