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Public Health and Sport Sciences

A multidisciplinary approach to examine heading in women’s football

This work is funded by the UEFA Research Grant programme.

Evidence is available demonstrating that former professional football (soccer) players are at a greater risk of neurodegenerative disease. It is thought that the repeated exposure to headers might explain at least part of this risk.

A woman footballer throws the ball into the air

Some studies have shown that heading can acutely influence indices of brain blood flow regulation and balance. However, these studies tend to use an inordinate amount of headers (for example, 40 in 20 minutes). Those data are useful, as there is difficulty in using acute intervention studies to consider a long-term, degenerative process.

However, we wanted to see what the acute effects of a more reasonable number of headers might be (one every 10 minutes, for an hour).

This work is also performed in women, as there is evidence that women experience greater microtrauma post-heading than men, possibly due to comparatively weaker neck strength, which causes greater head accelerations when heading. Also, the growing number of women playing football means that this is a contemporary concern.

Research team

Researchers: Jacob Jack, Alex Woodgates, Oliver Smail

Supervisors: Dr Bert Bond, Dr Genevieve Williams


Funded by UEFA