A study published in Acta Neuropathologica on Wednesday revealed soccer players who are frequent headers of the ball could be at risk of suffering long-term brain damage, according to Reuters' Ben Hirschler (via the Daily Mail).
The study focused on six deceased men who were previously diagnosed with dementia following extended soccer careers. According to Hirschler, examiners found that four of the six brains studied showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—which has been identified in several former NFL players.
However, scientists involved with the study stressed that it likely takes a tremendous amount of experience heading the ball for such serious cognitive issues to develop.
Huw Morris, a co-lead researcher at the University College London Institute of Neurology, told Hirschler he would "emphasise this is a very small number of players."
"The average playing career of these players was 26 years, which is thousands of hours of game playing, thousands of hours of practice and thousands of headers," Morris added. "I think the risk is extremely low from playing recreational football."
This is not the first time signs of CTE have been discovered in the brains of soccer players.
In February 2014, the New York Times' John Branch reported that signs of the degenerative condition were found posthumously in the brain of former college soccer player Patrick Grange, who was 29 at the time of his death.
Additionally, a study published in October 2016 by researchers at the University of Stirling discovered "small but significant changes in brain function immediately after routine heading practice."