Researchers at the University of Stirling have been able to demonstrate that heading a football twenty times during routine soccer practice can result in impaired cognition and memory; with performance being reduced by 41% – 67%, albeit with these negative effects wearing-off 24 hours later.
This is not in itself proof that “heading” has any impact on lasting memory impairments or risk of dementia / cognitive decline in the longer-term. Further research is planned regarding the possible association between soccer heading (or similar such practices, sporting or otherwise) repeated over time and any long-term consequences for brain health.
Heading footballs ‘affects memory’. Scotland: BBC Scotland News / BBC Health News, October 24th 2016.
This relates to:
Di Virgilio, TG. Hunter, A. [and] Wilson, L. [et al] (2016). Evidence for acute electrophysiological and cognitive changes following routine soccer heading. EBioMedicine. October 23rd 2016. [Epub ahead of print].
NHS Choices’ Behind the Headlines, as usual, provides a sense of perspective:
Heading footballs may cause short-term brain changes. London: NHS Choices; Behind the Headlines, October 24th 2016.