Saturday, November 3, 2007

World Soccer Society

World Soccer Society Inc. continues to move forward on schedule for its target launch date in February of 2008. World Soccer Society (the “WSS”) plans the launch of its membership program in February 2008 and is building the online portion of its social network at

WSS members share the common bond of having participated in or are dedicated to playing and coaching soccer, at every level. This network has the potential to consist of millions and has the potential to become not only an international organization with a common interest, but a highly successful business enterprise built on the knowledge that CoMedia Corporation has gained in launching the American Football Alumni social networking business model at

Mr. Robert W. Bell, Chairman of the World Soccer Society, is a former NASL Board member, and a former owner of the nine time world champion San Diego Sockers. Mr. Bell stated, “The launch of the WSS will bring CoMedia Corporation onto the international sporting stage. We are in the process of building an international advisory board that will include past and present owners, management and players who will guide the 'Society' to represent the sport throughout the world.” Mr. Bell added, “The establishment of the World Soccer Society was the next logical step for our company’s growth. The February launch date follows the Super Bowl and coincides with the excitement building around the world for Women’s and Men’s soccer as the Summer Olympics approach.”

World Soccer Society plans on having an international Board of Advisors of twenty members; the first four include the following:

Clive Toye is Chairman of the Board of Advisors. Mr. Toye was the chief soccer writer for the London Daily Express and correspondent for the BBC. He has written for various publications including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, TV Guide and Toronto Sun. Clive was the color commentator on CBS network and regional stations in the USA and Canada and was editor-in-chief of, which was voted one of the top six soccer websites worldwide. Toye coached youth soccer for many years, wrote the first US Soccer Handbook for youth and has visited over 100 countries. Soccer America, the leading US publication, named him one of the 20 most influential people in the history of the US soccer and, in MasterCard’s World Cup Ambassadors’ poll, he was named the foreign-born person who had contributed most to US Soccer. He was inducted into the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2003.

Stephen Baumann joins Mr. Toye as an Advisory Board member. Baumann is President and CEO of the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum in Oneonta, New York. Stephen has over 30 years of educational, museum, and soccer experience. He was Executive Director of Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena, CA and VP of Education and Programs at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ. Stephen was also an All-American soccer player at the University of Pennsylvania and played three years for the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer league. He also coached at the high school level as well as for Penn from 1987 through 1993.

Jim Trecker joins the Board of Advisors as a veteran of soccer public relations and communications and was appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary General/Communications in late 1996. Prior to that, he served as Senior Vice President/Chief Press Officer for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. Trecker has been involved in soccer for more than two decades, serving with the New York Cosmos, the North American Soccer League, the Washington Diplomats, the World Cup 1994 Organizing Committee and Major League Soccer. In addition, he has operated his own consulting business, whose clients have included the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and World Cup Japan 2002 Bidding Committee. Trecker is a member of the FIFA Media Committee and has carried out a number of assignments for the international governing body of soccer.

Ron Newman also joins the WSS Board of Advisors with the reputation of having done more for the sport than just about anyone. From the 1982 through 1992 seasons, Ron Newman’s San Diego Sockers indoor team won 10 championships. Newman’s record for championships is unmatched in North American soccer history. Ron won 13 professional championships, he is the only coach to win championships and Coach of the Year honors in four different leagues (NASL outdoors, NASL indoors, MISL and ASL), and he earned two indoor Coach of the Year awards with San Diego. He also was inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992, the San Diego Sockers Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame in 1997; he reached the 750 win plateau on July 19, 1998. Ron finished with an all-time record of 753-296-27 (includes indoors, outdoors, regular season and playoffs).

About CoMedia:

World Soccer Society is a majority owned subsidiary of CoMedia Corporation (Pink Sheets:CMTN), a marketing and communications company that is building social communities and associations of sports-specific alumni. Along with WSS, CoMedia launched the American Football Alumni (AFA a partially owned subsidiary) which recognizes that former football players belong to an exclusive fraternity and has created a home through an on-line community and social network to serve their needs. AFA’s goal is to bring together the 20 million former players and coaches through a virtual meeting place at

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dramatic increases in home runs through steroids

Batters may achieve dramatic increases in home runs through steroids

Tufts physicist says 4 percent increase in batted ball speed may boost home runs by 50 percent

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- Steroid use by a Major League Baseball slugger may produce only modest increases in muscle mass and bat and ball speed but still boost home run production by 50 percent or more, according to a new study by Tufts University physicist Roger Tobin.

Tobin, a specialist in condensed matter physics with a long-time interest in the physics of baseball, will publish his paper "On the potential of a chemical Bonds: Possible effects of steroids on home run production in baseball" in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Physics.

As Tobin's paper notes, Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a single season stood for 34 years until Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961. For the next 35 years, no player hit more than 52 home runs in one season. But between 1998 and 2006, players hit more than 60 home runs in a season six times. Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001—topping Maris' mark by an astonishing 20 percent.

According to Tobin, the explosion in home runs coincides with the dawn of the "steroid era" in sports in the mid-1990s, and that surge quickly dropped to historic levels in 2003, when Major League Baseball instituted steroid testing.

While the increase in home runs has been clouded by suspected use of performance-enhancing steroids, many have wondered why home-running hitting would be particularly vulnerable to performance enhancement. They have also asked if it is even physically and physiologically plausible that steroids could produce effects of the magnitude observed. The answer to both questions, says Tobin, is "yes."

Home Runs Disproportionately Affected

"A change of only a few percent in the average speed of the batted ball, which can reasonably be expected from steroid use, is enough to increase home run production by at least 50 percent," he says. This disproportionate effect arises because home runs are relatively rare events that occur on the "tail of the range distribution" of batted balls.

"In most any statistical distribution -- of people's heights, SAT scores, or how far baseballs are hit -- there's a large bump where most of the values fall, with the graph falling rapidly as you move away from that region in either direction toward the rarer values," explains Tobin. "It's a well-known statistical property of such distributions that a relatively small shift in the center point of the distribution can produce a much larger proportional change in the number of values well above or below the center. Because the distribution's 'tail' is particularly sensitive to small changes in the peak and/or width, home run records can be more strongly affected by steroid use than other athletic accomplishments."

Muscle Mass Boosts Bat and Ball Speed

Tobin reviewed previous studies of the effect of steroid use and concluded that muscle mass, the force exerted by those muscles and the kinetic energy of the bat could each be increased by about 10 percent through the use of steroids. According to his calculations, the speed of the bat as it strikes the pitched ball will be about 5 percent higher than without the use of steroids and the speed of the ball as it leaves the bat will be about 4 percent higher.

To determine the ultimate impact on home run production, Tobin then analyzed a variety of models for trajectory of the baseball, accounting for gravity, air resistance and lift force due to the ball's spin. While there was considerable variation among the models, "the salient point," he says, "is that a 4 percent increase in ball speed, which can reasonably be expected from steroid use, can increase home run production by anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent."

What About the Pitchers?

Tobin applied a similar, though less extensive, mechanical analysis to pitching and found that smaller impacts were possible. He calculated that a 10 percent increase in muscle mass should increase the speed of a thrown ball by about 5 percent, or four to five miles per hours for a pitcher with a 90 mile per hour fastball. That translates to a reduction in earned run average of about 0.5 runs per game.

"That is enough to have a meaningful effect on the success of a pitcher, but it is not nearly as dramatic as the effects on home run production," says Tobin. "The unusual sensitivity of home run production to bat speed results in much more dramatic effects, and focuses attention disproportionately on the hitters."

A Reasonable Suspicion

Tobin is quick to acknowledge that athletes in many sports today achieve at a higher level than athletes of the past, and that this trend is not evidence of cheating. He also points out that many other changes, including adjustments in ballpark dimensions, league expansions, entry of African-American athletes, and lowering of the pitcher's mound, could affect major league batting—although he says that none of those changes coincide with the sudden burst of home run production in the mid-1990s.

"Physics cannot tell us whether a particular home run was steroid-assisted, or even whether an extraordinary individual performance indicates the use of illicit means," says Tobin.

But analysis of the physics, combined with physiology, yields telling results. "These results certainly do not prove that recent performances are tainted, but they suggest that some suspicion is reasonable," he concludes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Soccer burns more fat than jogging

The experiment Sports scientist Peter Krustrup and his colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, the Copenhagen University Hospital and Bispebjerg Hospital have followed a soccer team consisting of 14 untrained men aged 20 to 40 years.

For a period of 3 months, the players have been subjected to a number of tests such as fitness ratings, total mass of muscles, percentage of fat, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.

Surprising results - 2-3 weekly rounds of soccer practise, of the duration of app. 1 hour, released massive health and training benefits. Their percentage of fat went down, the total mass of muscle went up, their blood pressure fell and their fitness ratings improved significantly. Everything we tested improved, says Peter Krustrup.

In parallel with the soccer-experiment, the research group did the same tests on a group of joggers as well as on a passive control group. The joggers also trained 2-3 times a week, but their efforts showed smaller effect than that of the soccer players.

- It is healthy to run long distances in a moderate speed, but the results show that soccer practise is better in a number of ways. The improvement in fitness rating and the increase in total muscle mass were greater in the soccer players, and during the last 8 weeks of the experiment, only the soccer-players showed any improvement, Peter Krustrup says.

After 12 weeks, the soccer players had lost 3.5 kilos of fat and gained more than 2 kilos of extra muscle mass, whereas the joggers had lost 2 kilos of fat and showed no change in total muscle mass. Both groups showed significant improvements in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.

The sports scientist believes that it is the shifts between walking, running and sprinting that causes the soccer players to experience better health improvements.

- I think that is part of the secret. Soccer is an all-round form of practise because it both keeps the pulse up and has many high-intensity actions. When you sprint, jump and tackle your opponents, you use all the fibres in your muscles. When you jog at a moderate pace, you only use the slow fibres, says Peter Krustrup.

Fun takes focus from pain During the process, the participants were asked how hard the practise was, and the feedback makes Peter Krustrup smile. The soccer players expressed that they did not find the practise particularly hard. The joggers always said the opposite.

- The joggers always found it hard. Even though they moved at the same average speed as the soccer-players, it was harder on them. I think it is owed to the fact that when you jog you focus on yourself. You notice the efforts and the breathlessness. And then you start to feel a little sorry for your self, says Peter Krustrup and continues:

- When you play soccer, you push those thoughts aside. The players are caught up in the game and they don’t notice that their hearts are pounding. It is fun, and the team needs all players to contribute and so they forget that it is hard. That is also happends to be very good exercise is an additional bonus.

International fight against lifestyle related diseases The results have encouraged the researchers to continue the research from a physiological angle. The team has made arrangements of cooperation with universities in Rome, Brussel and Liverpool, and they are applying for funding through the EU, UEFA and FIFA.

Peter Krustrup sees large perspectives in soccer at exercise level in a time of lifestyle-related diseases. When a pleasureable and popular team-sport such as soccer turns out to be so beneficiary, it would make sense to consider that sport in the national and international efforts to prevent and treat lifestyle-related diseases.

- In the fight against obesity and inactivity, soccer seems to be an obvious alternative to jogging and fitness. Soccer is a popular sport in large parts of the population, and experience tells us that there are good chances of growing a permanent affiliation with a sport when it is both fun and combined you’re your social life, says Krustrup and continues:

- It really doesn’t take a lot. A lawn, two goalposts and a ball is all you need to begin a health-promoting training programme for 22 people.

The international cooperation will continue research in soccer at exercise level for various age groups. The researchers also consider examining other sports such as handball, volleyball and basketball.

Facts about the project: For a period of 12 weeks, a group of soccer players and joggers have been active for for one hour 2-3 times a week. The participants have been continuingly subjected to tests: fitness rating, percentage of bodyfat, total mass of muscles, cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and balance.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Umpires favor pitchers of the same race

Umpires for Major League Baseball are more likely to call strikes in favor of pitchers who share their race or ethnicity, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.

But, this behavior diminishes when scrutiny of umpire calls increases—for example at ballparks with electronic monitoring systems, when there are 3 balls or 2 strikes, or at well-attended games.

Daniel Hamermesh, the Edward Everett Hale Centennial Professor of Economics, finance professors at McGill and Auburn Universities and a University of Texas at Austin graduate student analyzed every pitch from three major league seasons between 2004 and 2006 to explore whether racial discrimination factors into umpires’ evaluation of players. This summer, they presented their findings in the paper, “Strike Three: Umpires’ Demand for Discrimination.”

Discrimination in the labor market takes many forms, including disparities in wages, promotion and performance evaluation, the researchers explain.

In baseball, the umpire’s evaluation heavily influences the pitcher’s productivity and performance. During a typical game, umpires call about 75 pitches for each team. Throughout the season, they call about 400,000 pitches.

“Umpires judge the performance of players every game, deciding whether pitches are strikes or balls,” Hamermesh said. “Discrimination affects the outcome of a game and the labor market, determining the pitcher’s market value and compensation.”

The researchers found if a pitcher shares the home plate umpire’s race or ethnicity, more strikes are called and he improves his team’s chance of winning.

“From an economics perspective, the results are troubling because if workers are discriminated against when their performance is evaluated, then the ability to detect discrimination in other areas is reduced,” Hamermesh said.

Also, the power to evaluate players’ performances disproportionately belongs chiefly to members of one group, white umpires, while negative calls particularly impact minority pitchers, he said.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Groin injuries averted by preseason injury prevention

Groin injuries averted by preseason injury prevention

Study of pro soccer players finds significant reduction in injuries using simple 20-minute warm-up

Professional soccer players who participated in a special preseason groin injury prevention program had fewer groin injuries during that subsequent season than those who were not in the program, according to new research released today at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine at the Telus Convention Center (July 12-15).

The researchers enrolled 315 major league soccer players in a preseason groin injury prevention program to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. The 20-minute program was used as a prepractice warm-up two to three times a week during the preseason period. It included three phases – warm-up, dynamic stretching, and strengthening.

The participating athletes had a groin injury incidence of 0.44 injuries per 1,000 hours, while a control group had a groin injury rate of 0.61 injuries per 1,000 hours.

“Our 28% injury reduction rate is highly significant,” says principal investigator Michael B. Gerhardt, M.D., director of the Center for Athletic Hip and Groin Disorders in Santa Monica, Calif., and team physician for US Soccer and Chivas USA, a major league soccer team. “We were anticipating a 5-10% reduction rate, so we were pleasantly surprised that the injury reduction number was so high.”

Most professional soccer teams in Europe and the United States recognize groin injury as a major problem, according to Dr. Gerhardt. Groin injury accounts for a large amount of lost playing time. They are common in elite soccer players and especially problematic among male soccer players. The term “groin injury” encompasses a wide range of injuries ranging from minor groin strains to chronic groin injuries, such as sports hernias, which often require surgery.

The number of groin surgeries was also evaluated. Although not statistically significant, the athletes in the prevention session had fewer surgeries (0.13/1,000 hours) than the control subjects (0.18/1,000) who did not participate in the program. “While we were able to prevent the total number of groin injuries, we were unable to significantly reduce the number of surgeries,” comments Dr. Gerhardt. “Once an injury reaches the chronic stage it is hard to manage with any treatment regimen, including ours. These players typically go on to require surgery.”

Chronic injuries are defined as lasting a month or longer. Avoiding acute injuries, which the study’s preseason injury prevention program was able to reduce, can hopefully prevent them.

“If a simple 15- to 20-minute program can reduce the number of groin injuries that are occurring in professional athletes, I think it will gain widespread use,” notes Dr. Gerhardt. “We’ve seen this with ACL prevention programs, which have been implemented successfully by a variety of teams around the world. I anticipate that professional soccer teams will want their players to participate in a program if it is simple, cost effective, and, most importantly, proven to reduce groin injury.”

Dr. Gerhardt attributes the success of the prevention program to the multidisciplinary efforts of several expert therapists, trainers, and physicians.

Neoprene sleeve = knee brace during ACL recovery

Neoprene sleeve equal to knee brace during recovery from ACL surgery

For most patients, wearing a hard knee brace is not necessary for return to sport

Users of functional knee braces and neoprene sleeves have similar recoveries from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, according to new research presented today at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine at the Telus Convention Center (July 12-15).

“For patients returning to sport after ACL reconstruction, a functional knee brace, which is sturdy, elaborate, and expensive, does not provide advantages over a soft neoprene elastic sleeve,” says principal investigator Trevor Birmingham, Ph.D., P.T., Canada Research Chair in musculoskeletal rehabilitation at the University of Western Ontario and the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic in London, Ontario.

ACL reconstruction surgery is common, particularly in young, athletic individuals. The ACL is an important ligament inside the knee that helps keep it stable. ACL reconstruction involves replacing the torn ACL with a strip of tendon called a graft. Approximately 100,000 ACL reconstructions are performed annually according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

“It is widely believed that the rigid support provided by a functional knee brace protects the graft and improves knee stability and function when the patient returns to sport after surgery and rehabilitation,” explains Dr. Birmingham. “Others believe that the additional support provided by a brace is not necessary.”

To address this uncertainty, Dr. Birmingham and colleagues studied 150 athletes preparing to return to sport following ACL reconstruction. Seventy-six patients were randomized to receive a functional knee brace and 74 to receive a neoprene sleeve. The patients were instructed to wear the orthosis during all physical activities. The researchers found no significant differences between the groups at the one- and two-year follow-up visits.

“Based on our clinical experience, we were not completely surprised by the results,” Dr. Birmingham comments. “These findings provide strong evidence that the average patient does not require a functional knee brace when returning to sport after ACL reconstruction. There may be some patients who will benefit from a brace, and identifying these individuals requires further research. Until then, these decisions are left to the surgeon’s discretion.”

ACL functional knee braces are made by several different companies and have a variety of looks and fitting instructions. They are intended to limit abnormal movement of the knee and prevent excessive strain on the ACL or new graft. They generally provide a rigid support to restrain the knee, although they may also improve neuromuscular control of the knee. Most laboratory studies suggest that different types of functional knee braces perform similarly.

Neoprene sleeves are also made by several different companies and have different looks. Rather than providing rigid support, they are only intended to gently compress the area around the knee and improve neuromuscular control.

The study was large enough and had enough statistical power to detect even slight differences between the functional knee brace and sleeve groups. “We can be confident that even if small but true differences between these groups exist, these differences are not large enough to be clinically important,” concludes Dr. Birmingham. He notes that the study was not designed to test whether using a neoprene sleeve was better than using nothing at all.

Study on soccer headgear

From small scrapes to hospital emergencies, playing soccer can be painful, and even dangerous. To avoid head injuries and concussions the only effective solution is wearing soft protective headgear, as shown by Dr. Scott Delaney, Research Director of Emergency Medicine at the MUHC, in a new study published in the July issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In the first attempt to rely on results from the field instead of the lab, this innovative study was carried out just after the 2006 soccer season and included 268 adolescents, aged 12 to 17 years, from the Oakville Soccer Club. Although only 52 of them wore headgear during this period, the results are significant: the risk of concussion was 2.65 times higher for players who were not protected. In fact, 52.8% of the adolescents who did not wear headgear reported being injured compared to only 26.9% of those who did. These results are indeed noteworthy, particularly since approximately 80% of sports-related injuries are not recognized or reported. Prevention is therefore an essential means of protection.

Interestingly, though headgear protects the areas of the head that are covered, there were no differences in the number of cuts and bruises on the areas of the head and face not covered by it. “This was important to examine as many people fear that the use of soccer headgear may make players more aggressive and more prone to other injuries. At least for these injuries, it may show that wearing headgear does not encourage people to play more aggressively,” stated Dr. Delaney.
Unfortunately, adolescents who regularly wear headgear are not the rule and do not represent the majority of young athletes: most of them are young girls or adolescents who have already been injured. “Girls, in general, are more prone to concussions in soccer and they may be more aware of the possible benefits of wearing headgear,” remarked Dr. Delaney, who also practices at the McGill Sports Medicine Clinic. Since 2002, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has authorized soft headgear during official matches but has not made it mandatory. “This study may help convince parents and players that soft protective soccer headgear can be an effective part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of head injuries and concussions in soccer,” confirmed Dr. Delaney.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Average major league baseball career 5.6 years

The average career of a Major League Baseball player is 5.6 years, according to a new study by a University of Colorado at Boulder research team. The study also revealed that one in five position players will have only a single-year career, and that at every point of a player's career, the player's chance of ending his career is at least 11 percent.

Results of the study, "Major League Baseball Career Length in the 20th Century," will be published in the August issue of Population Research and Policy Review. The study was conducted by former CU-Boulder graduate student William Witnauer, sociology Professor Richard Rogers and doctoral student Jarron Saint Onge. Rogers also directs the Population Program in the CU-Boulder Institute of Behavioral Science.

"Population research can provide rich insight into important and popular social issues, including baseball," Rogers said.

The study examined the career statistics of baseball players who started their careers between 1902 and 1993. Pitchers were excluded because of their unique positions, career volatility and propensity for injuries.

Between 1902 and 1993, 5,989 position players started their careers and played 33,272 person years of Major League Baseball. Using voluminous baseball statistics, the authors then developed a table of average career lengths for the players.

"Everyone knows that Major League Baseball is highly competitive," Witnauer said. "But as Americans enjoy this year's All-Star game, they now have a definitive answer on the average length of a baseball career."

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Does Amateur Boxing or Heading Cause Brain Damage?

Blows to the head in amateur boxing appear to cause brain damage, according to research that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 59th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 28 – May 5, 2007.

“Despite the high prevalence of brain damage as a result of professional boxing, until now there has been little information on the possible risks for brain injury in amateur boxing,” said study author Max Hietala, MD, PhD, with Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Goteborg, Sweden.

For the study, researchers used lumbar puncture to determine if there were elevated levels of biochemical markers for brain injury in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 14 amateur boxers. Boxers were tested after a fight and then again three months after rest from boxing. The study also included 10 healthy men who were not athletes.

The study found high CSF levels of neuronal and glial markers suggestive of brain damage after a fight. A particular marker for neuronal damage, neurofilament light (NFL), was four times higher in boxers within 10 days of the fight as compared with healthy non-athletes. These increased levels returned to normal after three months rest from boxing.

In addition, the increased levels after a fight were significantly higher among amateur boxers who had received more than 15 high impact hits to the head compared with boxers who reported fewer hits. The boxers who had received more than 15 high impact hits to the head had seven to eight times higher NFL-levels post fight compared to their levels following a three-months rest.

“Repeated hits to the head are potentially damaging to the central nervous system, and our results suggest CSF-analysis could be used for medical counseling of athletes after boxing or head injury,” said Hietala.

The study was extended to soccer players heading the ball repeatedly from long and high goal kicks. No increased levels of biochemical markers for brain damage in cerebrospinal fluid were found. “This data shows headings in soccer is not associated with any neurochemical evidence of brain damage,” said Hietala.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Officiating bias, influence by crowds=home field advantage

Officiating bias, influenced by crowds, affects home field advantage

Study finds that individual referees vary in response to environmental factors

The roar of the crowd may subconsciously influence some referees to give an advantage to the home team, according to a study that examines the results of over 5,000 soccer matches in the English Premier League. The matches were played between 1992 and 2006, and involved 50 different referees, each of whom had officiated at least 25 games within that time period.

Ryan Boyko, a research assistant in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, led the study, which will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Sports Sciences.

"Individual referees and the size of the crowd present are variables that affect the home field advantage. In order to ensure that all games are equally fair, ideally, all referees should be equally unaffected by the spectators," says Boyko.

Boyko studied the number of goals scored by a team at home versus those scored while away, and found that teams scored 1.5 home goals on average, and 1.1 while away. Crowd size also had an impact on the number of goals scored by the home team, and for every additional 10,000 people in the crowd, the advantage for the home team increased by about 0.1 goals.

In addition to affecting the number of goals scored, the away team received more penalties, implying that referees are making calls in favor of the home team, possibly as a result of the influence of the crowd. Some individual referees are more susceptible to these influences than others. In fact, more experienced referees are less biased by the impact of a large audience, which suggests that they may develop a resistance to effects of the crowd.

Match results within the English Premier League were chosen for study because the games are heavily attended and the teams are located within the same time zone, eliminating long-distance travel as a factor involved with home field advantage. Information about the results of English Premier League games is also widely available online.

While previous research has studied the home advantage with regard to the influence of the crowd, player performance, and referees' decision-making processes, little work has been done on the variation of partiality from referee to referee. While understood to be present in sports that are both judged and scored, earlier studies had also shown that the home field advantage is more pronounced in sports that are subjectively judged, such as figure skating, as opposed to those that are objectively decided, such as speed skating, indicating a relationship between the judging process and the home field advantage.

The findings could suggest ways to increase the fairness of matches by identifying referee susceptibility to the external factors that are present at most sporting events.

"Referee training could include conditioning towards certain external factors, including crowd response," Boyko says. "Leagues should be proactive about eliminating referee bias. The potential is there for a game to be altered because of factors that subconsciously affect the referee."

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Which Catcher’s Mask Works Better?

As Baseball Season Begins, Which Catcher’s Mask Works Better? Kettering University Students Test Traditional and Hockey Style Masks During Research Project

FInspired by professional baseball catcher Mike Matheny’s forced early retirement from major league play, four Kettering University seniors tested the protective properties of catcher’s masks. Their findings support one for foul tips and the other for batter backswings.

Using high speed video, a crash test dummy and a skeet throwing machine, they propelled a baseball at about 100 mph at the dummy wearing both styles of catcher’s mask. Both masks that the group tested were manufactured for professional use by All-Star, a division of Ampac Enterprises.

Crash dummies are instrumented with accelerometers that indicate possible brain or closed-head injuries in humans. The group measured the G-forces exerted on the head in two different types of tests; frontal impact test, simulating a foul-tip, and side impact test, simulating a batter’s backswing striking the side of a catcher’s head.

The traditional style mask performed better on frontal impact. Peak G-force of the traditional mask at this location was 3.763, while peak G-force for the hockey-style mask was 9.814.

The hockey style mask performed better on side impact with a G-force of 13.57 in comparison to the traditional mask recording a value of 32.02.

Their conclusion, the traditional style catcher’s mask is better against a foul-tip, and a hockey-style catcher’s mask is better against a hitter’s backswing. The front impact location was where the foul-tip that ended Mike Matheny’s career struck on the hockey-style catcher’s mask.

The old style is a two-piece design with a metal cage with padding across the forehead and over the cheekbones and chin areas, with no padding on the sides of the head and a helmet with no padding.

The hockey-style looks like a goalie mask, a plastic outer shell over a metal frame and padding underneath with protective coverage back to the ear area and over the top of the head in front.

The research team was Morris “Mo” Roth of Commack, N.Y.; Scott Barel of Sterling Heights, Mich.; Jeff Schulze of Bay Port, Mich.; and Josh Maag of Leipsic, Ohio.

To see photos from the student project, visit and click on: “Foul tip trauma.”

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Iced Foot Effect

Science Magazine

"It was a dramatic finale. Only 9 seconds remained in the National Football League's 2004 Super Bowl, which pitted the New England Patriots against the Carolina Panthers. The score was tied. The Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri was set to kick a game-winning, 40-yard field goal.

At that crucial moment, the Panthers called a timeout. The team hoped that this extra time would "ice" Vinatieri, getting him to think more about the situation he was in—and making him more likely to miss. The kicker had to wait 2 minutes before making his attempt. He made the kick, and the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

Football teams continue to call timeouts at such moments, always hoping to increase the chances that the opposing kicker will miss after the delay. Basketball teams apply a similar strategy when they call a timeout just before an opposing player attempts a free throw.

"Does making the kicker think about his field goal attempt for an extra 2 minutes alter his probability of success?" statisticians Scott Berry and Craig Wood ask in the current issue of Chance. In other words, does "icing" work?

To find out, Berry and Wood analyzed data about field goal attempts during the 2002 and 2003 NFL seasons (including playoffs). They recorded the kicker, the length of the kick, the score of the game, the time left in the game, and whether a timeout was called by the defense before the kick. They even noted whether the field was grass or artificial turf and the weather conditions (sun, clouds, rain, snow, average wind speed, temperature—unless the games were indoors).

In these two seasons, there were 52 different field goal kickers, combining for a total of 2,003 attempts. Of these kicks, 1,565 (78.1 percent) were successful.

Berry and Wood then looked at what they defined as "pressure" kicks—those that occurred with 3 minutes or less remaining in the game (or overtime) and would create a lead or a tie for the team attempting the kick.

There were 139 such pressure kicks, and 101 (73 percent) were successful. The defense called a timeout 38 times before the pressure kick, and 24 (63 percent) of these kicks succeeded.

To take a closer look at the data and take into account any physical factors that could affect the outcome, the statisticians created a mathematical model representing the probability of a successful kick.

In general terms, a successful kick depends largely on the distance. It's also useful to incorporate a factor that accounts for performance differences among different kickers. Weather may also influence the result.

Using this model, Berry and Wood obtained results using the 2-season data that matched certain expectations. A kick made indoors is more likely to be successful. Clouds also have a small beneficial effect on kicks. Rain or snow, on the other hand, reduces the chances of success. High winds also reduce the probability of success, but not as much as rain or snow.

In pressure situations, the odds of success change very little (a mean decrease of 1.8 percent). However, icing the kicker in such a situation has a pretty strong negative effect.

Using their model, Berry and Wood calculate that, for an average kicker, the estimated probability of a successful 40-yard kick in sunny weather is 0.759. The estimated probability under the same conditions for an average kicker who has been iced is 0.659.

"Reducing the probability of a successful kick from 0.759 to 0.659 is a very important difference," Berry and Wood report.

So, is calling a timeout a good defensive strategy? "The evidence is not overwhelming, but it is compelling," Berry and Wood conclude.

"Icing a field goal kicker on a pressure kick may decrease the probability of success," they add. "This implies that a psychological effect of pressure exists, and is compounded by more time to dwell on the kick."

Statisticians and fans have long argued about whether there is such a thing as a "hot-hand" effect in sports, where a player, such as basketball shooter, has streaks during which he's more successful than expected. Now, there appears to be evidence of a "cold-foot" effect!"

The psychology of baseball

It’s the seventh game of the World Series — bottom of the ninth inning, your team is down 4-3 with runners on second and third — and you’re on deck. You watch as your teammate gets the second out. That means you’re up with a chance to win a championship for your team...or lose it.

You’re known as a clutch hitter, and you’ve hit safely in 22 straight games — an impressive streak to be sure. But as you step into the batter’s box, your hands are sweating and your mind is racing. You think about the last time you faced this pitcher and the curveball he threw to strike you out. You look at him standing on the mound and he looks tired. You try to pick up clues from his body language. How fast is his fastball today? Will he tempt you with that curveball again?

Psychologists are asking different questions: Does your recent hitting streak really matter? Is there even such a thing as a clutch hitter? Will the pitcher’s curveball fool you? And then there are the more basic ques-tions: How is it possible to hit a 100 m.p.h. fastball without being able to see it for more than a split second? How is it that even sandlot players — mere children — can intuitively do the complex geometry needed to get to precisely the right spot to catch a fly ball?

University of Missouri psychologist Mike Stadler uses research from dozens of behavioral scientists, plus some of his own, to try answering these complicated questions in his new book, The Psychology of Baseball. "Baseball turns out to be a good laboratory for studying psychological phenomena," Stadler says, "because you’re pushing the human system to its limits. And that’s a good way to see how the system works."

Psychologists have been studying baseball players almost as long as the Red Sox had been disappointing fans in Boston, and much of the attention has naturally focused on the most heroic part of the game: hitting. Baseball’s great sluggers, such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Albert Pujols, make it seem so effortless, which makes it hard to accept the scientific consensus that hitting is basically impossible. That’s right, impos-sible. Why? A ball thrown by a major league pitcher reaches speeds of 100 m.p.h. and an angular velocity (the speed in degrees at which the ball travels through your field of vision) of more than 500 degrees per second. A typical human can only track moving objects up to about 70 degrees per second. Add to this the fact that it takes longer to swing a bat than it does for a pitch to go from the pitcher’s hand to the catcher’s mitt, which means a hitter must start his swing before the ball is released and has less than a half a second to change his mind. All that equals impossible.

Not surprisingly, professional baseball players are able to keep their eye on the ball longer (up to 120 de-grees per second) than the average human being. In one study, pro players who were asked to keep their eyes on the ball did one of two things. They either watched the pitch until it reached speeds too fast to keep track of — the farthest a player could track a pitch was 5.5 feet in front of the plate — or, less commonly, they watched for the first few feet and then quickly moved their line of vision to where they thought the ball would end up and watched it as it crossed the plate. So it turns out that your little league coach’s advice — watch the ball until it meets the bat — is actually physically impossible. But even the worst Major League hitters succeed two out of every 10 trips to the plate. Are the hits they get just pure luck? Not exactly.

"I guess what interests me most in some ways is that even though we have the perceptual limitations and even though we have the reaction time limitations, there’s still enough mental machinery there to help us solve the problem," Stadler says. Hitters must make some assumptions and guess where the ball is going to be and when it is going to be there in order to make contact. Because the barrel of the bat is long enough to cover the entire plate but is only a few inches thick, predicting where the ball will end up horizontally across the plate is much less important than pre-dicting where it will be vertically. And a large portion of predicting at what height it will cross the plate has to do with predicting the speed of the ball.

Arizona State’s Rob Gray has used a virtual hitting simulation — something he describes as a "purposefully simplified" video game — to help determine what cues help hitters make contact with the ball. In a 2002 study, he varied the speeds of the virtual ball randomly from about 70 to 80 m.p.h., and hitters failed miserably, with batting averages of about 0.030. That’ll get you cut from a T-ball team. But in the same simulation, hitters fared much better — with batting averages of 0.120 — when pitches were thrown at just two different speeds: slow (75 m.p.h.) or fast (85 m.p.h.). It’s the randomness, not an over-powering fastball, that fools hitters. Gray’s conclusion: "It is clear that successful batting is nearly impossible in the situation in which pitch speed is random and in which no auxiliary cues (e.g., pitcher’s arm motion or pitch count) are available to the batter."

So, back to you now in the batter’s box. You can at least take comfort in knowing that the pitcher you’re facing only has a few pitches: a fastball, a changeup, and maybe a slider or a curveball. You’ve practiced hitting each of those pitches thousands of times during your career, and can draw on your knowledge of those at-bats. There are also cues like the pitcher’s arm speed and the rotation of the ball that help you make an educated guess about what pitch is coming. You may need to get used to a pitcher’s speed, but you have a decent idea of where the ball is going — at least enough of a good idea to succeed at your job 30 percent of the time.

Now the question is: Are you going to perform in this clutch situation, with the game and the championship on the line, or will you choke? Research dating back to a 1984 study by Florida State’s Roy Baumeister (an APS Fellow) and including work by Michigan State’s Sian Beilock suggests that if you put a player in a pressure situation, he develops a greater than normal self-focus — what we colloquially call trying too hard. When you learn a process like a baseball swing, it is important to practice it step-by-step, and novice hitters actually think through their actions of shifting their weight, rotating their hips, and so forth. But experts do this naturally. Indeed, Gray used his hitting simulation to show that when expert hitters were asked to focus on a particular part of their swing, it adversely affected their performance.

"If we force you to go back and think about each stage of what you’re doing, you actually start interfering with this procedural knowledge, this motor memory, and you start messing it up," Gray says. "It’s like tinkering with a machine that’s running really efficiently. You start trying to control everything yourself and it messes it up and it hurts your performance."

It’s hard to imagine a more pressure-filled situation than the World Series, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think the hitter might overthink his swing. But what if he’s a clutch hitter? What if he’s been on a hot streak the last few weeks? The scientific consensus is that there is no such thing as a streaky hitter; though try telling that to anyone who’s been on the losing end of one of David Ortiz’s 15 walk-off hits with the Red Sox or Derek Jeter’s 14 consecutive World Series games with a hit. Still, the statistical analysis seems to show that streaks and clutch hitting could just be a result of simple probability.

Physicist Ed Purcell of Harvard did a statistical analysis and concluded that all streaks and slumps except for Joe DiMaggio’s remarkable 56-game hit streak fall within what could be expected by chance. Think of it this way: If you flip a fair coin a couple million times, it’s not hard to imagine that there might be times when it comes up heads 20 times in a row.

There is additional support for this view. Dick Cramer, baseball statistician and founder of STATS, Inc., hy-pothesized that if baseball did have clutch players, they would be consistent from year to year — much like the league’s best home- run hitters are consistent across years. What he found in fact is that a player might be one of baseball’s best clutch hitters one year, then plummet to the bottom the very next year.

Not everyone is ready to discount clutch hitting. Gray, for example, thinks clutch hitters might know how to relax and not try too hard in situations where there is a lot on the line. So maybe it’s not so much being a clutch hitter as it is being a nonchoker. A study of bowlers lends support to this idea. Professional bowlers, the study showed, are much more likely to bowl a strike after a series of strikes than they are to bowl a strike after a series of nonstrikes. That was true for weekend sports, like horseshoes, as well.

It could be that too much of baseball is decided by factors other than the hitter — the pitcher and the fielders certainly have some influence — to be able to accurately determine whether hitters are clutch or streaky. What happens when a "streaky" hitter comes up against a pitcher who’s also on the top of his game? Or what if the hitter makes good contact during two of his at-bats but is robbed by spectacular fielding plays both times?

"Everything ultimately comes down to the hitter succeeded or he didn’t," Stadler says. "But there’s a lot more behind that number in the box score that the box score just doesn’t capture."

So, let’s say you’re back at the plate, and you’ve fallen behind in the count 2-2. The next pitch comes and, like you predicted, it’s another curve ball. You’re ready. You give a good swing. The ball sails deep into the outfield. The centerfielder takes off to his right immediately, tracking the ball with ease. He’s not actually com-puting any complicated formula in his neurons while sprinting, but he seems completely sure about where the ball is going to land. Then, whack! He runs straight into the outfield wall, and the ball flies over his head for a game-winning home run.

Like hitting, fielding also seems like it should be a mental and physical impossibility — which makes it fas-cinating to psychology researchers. If you put a player in the outfield and make him stay put, he is actually quite bad at predicting where a ball is going to land, yet he will run effortlessly to that spot when allowed to do so. How?

One of the first theories developed to explain fly-ball catching was developed by physicist Seville Chapman, who hypothesized that fielders used the acceleration of the ball to help them determine where the ball will land. To simplify the problem for experimental purposes, balls were only hit directly at the fielders, who then moved either forward or backward in order to keep the ball moving at a constant speed through their field of vision — so, they started with their eyes on home plate and then moved in a way that kept their eyes moving straight up at a constant speed until they made the catch. If they moved too far forward, the ball would move more quickly through their field of vision and go over their head. If they moved too far backwards, the ball would appear to die in front of them.

This theory seemed too simple to Mike McBeath, a psychologist at Arizona State. For one thing, Chapman’s model predicted that fielders would use the same process for balls hit to their left or right, simply making a sideways calculation along with the basic speed calculation. But that would mean balls hit to the side should be harder to catch, and McBeath (and every sandlot outfielder) knows that’s simply not the case. Any outfielder will tell you that a ball hit directly at him is the most difficult to catch, so McBeath reasoned instead that, when a ball is hit directly at a fielder, the fielder lacks some crucial bit of information for making the catch. He came up with a method that was similar to Chapman’s but included an extra piece: He hypothesized that fielders kept the ball moving through their field of vision in a straight but diagonal line. So if the outfielder is looking at home plate when the ball is hit, he then keeps his eyes on the ball and runs so his head moves along a constant angle until the ball is directly above him, which is when he snags it. To test this, McBeath had fielders put video cameras on their shoulders, and the cameras moved in this manner.

Yet ask any Major Leaguers about this, and you’ll get blank stares. McBeath did talk to pro outfielders, and responses ranged from "Beats me" to "You’re full of it." That’s because there’s no conscious processing in-volved; it’s all taking place at the level of instinct, even though the geometry is sophisticated.

It turns out that outfielders aren’t the only ones who operate according to McBeath’s strategy. Dogs use it to catch Frisbees, bats and insects use it to catch prey, infielders use the model — only upside-down — to field ground balls, and, now, robots use it, too. Because the algorithm for catching fly balls is actually so simple, McBeath has been able to work with robotics experts to program robots to catch fly balls. (Or at least to get to the right spot; catching is a different problem for a robot with no hands.)

"It’s neat," says McBeath, an expert on perception. "It’s not always true that the way humans and animals do things is the best way. The geometry of a moving fielder from the perspective of the fielder seems like it would be a nightmare of a formula. But what we’ve shown is that we can reduce it down to this really simple geometric solution."

Chapman’s model is still used to describe the special case of catching balls hit directly at the fielder. Both fly-ball catching theories require that the fielders make adjustments on the go, which explains why we’re so bad at predicting where a ball will go if we stand in one place.

It also explains why our World Series outfielder ran straight into the wall when tracking the game-winning home run. Using McBeath’s method, players tracking a fly ball only know that they are capable of getting to the spot where the ball will land. This intuitive geometry offers no insight into whether that ball is going, going … gone.

Are the good players born or made?

It’s tempting to assume that there is some innate ability involved in becoming an elite ball player. Baseball playing does seem to run in families — think Ripken or Bell or Bonds. Plus, studies have shown that baseball players are a select group of athletes with amazing skills such as being able to track objects moving at ex-tremely high speeds of angular velocity.

Back in 1921, psychologists at Columbia convinced Babe Ruth to take a series of tests and found that he re-acted faster to sound and visual signals than the average human being. His hand-eye coordination was better than most of the population, and he could perceive information significantly better than the average person.

"The secret of Babe Ruth’s ability to hit is clearly revealed in these tests," wrote Hugh Fullerton, the author of the Popular Science Monthly article that described the tests. "His eye, his ear, his brain, his nerves all func-tion more rapidly than do those of the average person."

Similar tests were recently done on St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols and, not surprisingly, he also ranked near the top of the human population. But psychologists haven’t been able to determine a causal link between this superior physiological functioning and succeeding at baseball. These characteristics might make people better at baseball, but it could be that baseball players with these abilities are better because they practice hitting base-balls all the time.

Mike Stadler, University of Missouri, subscribes to a set-point theory, meaning that players are born with a certain range of talent, but they get to the top of their range through hard work and practice. For most of us, no matter how hard we practice, we won’t make the Major Leagues. Others have the talent to make it, but need to develop their skills to become superstars.

Certainly speed, reflexes and hand-eye coordination are important, but there are other factors as well. All fielders seem to follow Mike McBeath’s theory to help them catch fly balls. But McBeath, Arizona State Uni-versity, found that some are naturally more aggressive, trying to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak, and these fielders tend to be more successful getting to balls that are difficult to catch. Others lag behind, wait for the ball to move off the straight line and then must make adjustments, which slows them down.

Baseball teams use personality tests — the most famous of which are William Winslow’s Athletic Motiva-tion Inventory and the Athletic Success Inventory, which is based off AMI — to help them weed out the great players from the good players when it becomes draft time. Instead of looking at players’ heights and speeds, these tests distinguish between their levels of ambition, coachability and leadership. Baseball teams don’t like to give away their secret formulas, but University of Washington’s Ronald Smith and others have looked at the correlation between these tests and success in professional baseball. Smith’s studies found a few characteristics — achievement motivation, coping with adversity and peaking under pressure —correlated well to a long career in the Majors, but, in particular, hitters with higher self-confidence are more successful Major League players. This characteristic doesn’t seem to be as important in football or basketball, probably because the whole team is more responsible for a successful outcome in those sports. In baseball, it’s just the pitcher against the hitter.

"For hitters, failure is such a commonplace experience that you have to have people who maintain confi-dence through even a long string of failure," Stadler says.

Does a fastball rise and a curveball curve?

The terms "rising fastball" and "off-the-table" curveball have become part of the baseball lexicon. But most psychologists and physicists agree that neither really exists. Because of gravity and because a pitcher throws from a mound a few inches above where the batter stands, it is impossible for a fastball to rise — even for a sidearmed pitcher.

Still, many hitters swear they’ve seen — and even been struck out by — these tricky pitches. As a graduate student working on his PhD dissertation at Stanford, Mike McBeath, now at Arizona State, was intrigued by this contradiction and took a month off from his research to write a paper on the illusion of the rising fastball. What he came up with is a model that explains how a fastball could be perceived to have risen even if it had in fact dropped a few feet from the time it was released.

If a batter misjudges the speed of a pitch and is expecting the ball to be slower than it actually is, he expects that it will fall farther by the time it crosses the plate. So he swings where he thinks the ball should be crossing the plate, but that swing is actually a few inches under the ball. Because it is impossible for him to follow the ball from the time of release to the time of contact, the result is a ball that appears to have been so fast that it jumped up over the bat.

The opposite is true for the curveball. The batter assumes the ball is coming faster than it actually is, so by the time it gets to the plate, it’s lower than the batter expected, giving the impression that it fell a few inches.

"The curveball definitely does curve some," McBeath says. "There’s been high-speed photography verifying that. It’s just that it appears to curve in funnier ways than it’s verified to do."

Side-to-side curvature has very little impact on the batter because the bat is big enough to cover the entire plate. Misjudging the speed, however, can cause the batter to swing over or under the ball So, maybe players should really be talking about "rising" and "off-the table" swings rather than pitches.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Prevention of injuries

The aims of this thesis were to study the incidence, severity and pattern of injury in male and female elite football players; to study time trends in injury risk; to identify risk factors for injury; and to test the effectiveness of an intervention programme aimed at preventing re-injury.

All studies followed a prospective design using standardised definitions and data collection forms. Individual training and match exposure was registered for all players participating. Time loss injuries were documented by each team’s medical staff.

The amount of training increased by 68% between the 1982 and 2001 Swedish top male division seasons, reflecting the shift from semi-professionalism to full professionalism. No difference in injury incidence or injury severity was found between seasons. The injury incidence was 4.6 vs. 5.2/1000 training hours and 20.6 vs. 25.9/1000 match hours. The incidence of severe injury (absence >4 weeks) was 0.8/1000 hours in both seasons.

The Swedish and Danish top male divisions were followed during the spring season of 2001. A higher risk for training injury (11.8 vs. 6.0/1000 hours, p<0.01) and severe injury (1.8 vs. 0.7/1000 hours, p=0.002) was observed among the Danish players. Re-injury accounted for 30% and 24% of injuries in Denmark and Sweden respectively.

The Swedish top male division was studied over two consecutive seasons, 2001 and 2002, and comparison of training and match injury incidences between seasons showed similar results. Players who were injured in the 2001 season were at greater risk for injury in the following season compared to non-injured players (relative risk 2.7; 95% CI 1.7-4.3). Players with a previous hamstring injury, groin injury and knee joint trauma were two to three times more likely to suffer an identical injury to the same limb in the following season, but no such relationship was found for ankle sprain. Age was not associated with an increased injury risk.

The effectiveness of a coach-controlled rehabilitation programme on the rate of re-injury was studied in a randomised controlled trial at amateur male level. In the control group, 23 of 79 injured players suffered a recurrence during the season compared to 10 of 90 players in the intervention group. There was a 75% lower re-injury risk in the intervention group for lower limb injuries (relative risk 0.25; 95% CI 0.11-0.57). The preventive effect was greatest during the first weeks after return to play.

Both the male and female Swedish top divisions were followed during the 2005 season. Male elite players had a higher risk for training injury (4.7 vs. 3.8/1000 hours, p<0.05) and match injury (28.1 vs. 16.1/1000 hours, p<0.001) than women. However, no difference was observed in the rate of severe injury (0.7/1000 hours in both groups). The thigh was the most common site of injury in both men and women, while injury to the hip/groin was more frequent in men and to the knee in women. Knee sprain accounted for 31% and 37% of the time lost from training and match play in men and women respectively

Friday, March 9, 2007

Risk of injury for young goalies using adult soccer balls

Risk of injury high among young goalies using adult sized soccer balls

Eager young goalies run a significant risk of injury, trying to make 'a save,' when using an adult sized ball?a practice that is all too common?finds research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

There are an estimated 200 million soccer/football players worldwide. In England and Wales 2.25 million players are registered with the Football Association. Of these, 750,000 are youth players, and an additional large but unknown number of children and young adults play informally throughout the year.

All children and young adults attending a fracture clinic in one hospital were monitored for 17 months. Those who had been injured while playing football, and who had sustained a wrist or hand fracture, were asked how the injury had occurred.

Among the 1920 new patients seen at the clinic, 29 wrist fractures were seen in 28 goalies who had been trying to "make a save." One of the goalies had fractured both wrists on separate occasions.

The average age of the injured players was just under 11 years. Most injuries occurred during the summer months, and on grass. Two thirds were sustained during informal play. In almost three quarters of incidents, an adult (size 5) ball had been in play. A junior size ball (size 4) was involved in a further 14 per cent of incidents. In 26 cases a plaster cast for around three weeks successfully treated the fracture, but three fractures required additional manipulation under anaesthetic.

An adult size 5 soccer ball weighs up to 450 g, and can be kicked at speeds of up to 25 m/second. The impact from a stitched ball, particularly when wet, is greater than that from a moulded ball. And goalkeepers are especially vulnerable to impact injury as they repeatedly take the full force of the ball on their hands.

The Football Association made recommendations on the use of appropriately sized soccer balls for young players in 1993, advising a size 4 ball for 8 to 11 year olds, and a size 3 for younger children. But these recommendations do not seem to be widely followed, say the authors.

Pediatric soccer injuries - 1.6 million ER visits

First national review of pediatric soccer injuries finds 1.6 million ER visits over 13-year span

Study finds higher injury rates in girls and very young players

Girl soccer players may be sustaining more injuries than boys, but boys are twice as likely to be hospitalized for their injuries, according to the first comprehensive look at U.S. emergency room data on youth soccer injuries. The review appears in the February issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Coauthors Robert E. Leininger, Christy L. Knox, MA, and R. Dawn Comstock, PhD, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, found startling differences in age, gender, injury rate, diagnosis, and disposition of injuries in their analysis of youth soccer injury statistics.

Past research on soccer injuries has tended to focus on pro players, injuries to specific body parts, and age- or gender-specific soccer injuries. This study is the first to investigate soccer-related injuries among the entire US pediatric population.

The authors reviewed pediatric, soccer-related data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), a nationally representative sample of 100 US hospital emergency departments (EDs). The NEISS collects information such as patient demographics, injury type and injury event and is updated daily. Though only a sampling of injuries seen in US EDs, data are weighted and the results extrapolated to calculate the numbers of injuries treated in all US emergency departments. The researchers reviewed 1.6 million soccer-related injuries to children ages 2 to 18 years of age seen in EDs participating in the NEISS from 1990 to 2003.

During the 13 years studied, the overall pediatric soccer-related injury rate did not increase significantly, though it reached a peak in 2000. Over the same time period, however, there was a statistically significant increase in the number of injuries among girls 2 to 18 years of age. The increase in the girls' injury rate may reflect a sharp increase in female participation in soccer, the authors theorize.

Overall, girls sustained more ankle and knee injuries and were more likely to have sprains or strains than boys. The number of sprains/strains and lower extremity injuries increased with age, and upper extremity injuries were most common in children ages 5-14. Concussion was the most common injury in players 15 to 18 years of age.

"Future research is needed to further examine soccer-related injuries by gender," the authors write. "Society norms in the US, which may allow very young boys to be more physically active and to engage in activities such as soccer with less parental supervision whereas very young girls may be less likely to do so, may explain the gender difference."

The researchers studied 4 specific age groups: 2-4 years, 5-9 years, 10-14 years, and 15-18 years of age. They found a 4-fold increase in the percentages of injuries occurring in players ages 10-14 (49% of all injuries) from those aged 5-9 years (12.3% of all injuries). "It is possible that the middle school-aged player is bigger, stronger, and playing harder, leading to an increase in the likelihood of injury," says Knox.

Injuries to the face, head, and neck were more common in very young soccer players (2 to 4 years of age) than in older children. The youngest players (especially boys) were also more likely to be hospitalized for soccer injuries than their older counterparts. "In general, younger children have great difficulty expressing themselves in words," says coauthor Christy Knox. "When that child is injured, it seems prudent to hospitalize and observe that child."

"Children 2 to 4 years of age should be closely supervised while playing soccer because of the risk of head injuries and rate of hospitalization," the authors write. "More research needs to be done on soccer helmets to see if the risk for concussion and other head injuries can be decreased, and heading should be minimized among younger players."

The authors call for the establishment of a national database of all soccer participation and injury data. "With increased knowledge of the epidemiology of soccer-related injuries for all pediatric age groups, prevention and training can be improved, and the endemic rate of injury can be decreased even as participation increases," they say.

"Compared to contact sports, soccer has a fairly low injury rate. We want children to stay healthy and active, and to be safe when playing any sport. Parents, players, coaches, referees, soccer organizations, and the medical community should work together to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants," the authors conclude.

Heading into difficulty?

New soccer studies show short and long-term consequences of common practice

Dr. Frank Webbe has spent more than a dozen years of his life as a soccer referee and coach. He's also a professor of psychology at Florida Tech, with an emphasis on sports psychology. These two worlds came together with his research into the neurocognitive effects of heading in the sport of soccer.

Webbe, who has studied the effects of heading since the early 1990s, recently published two studies with different collaborators. Both studies researched the effects of frequent headings over time, while one focused further on the short-term effects of recent soccer heading. In the research, brain function among soccer players who had played for varying number of years was compared with the brain function of subjects who had never played. In his study with Shelly Ochs, Webbe also compared the functionality of players who had recently played soccer with those who had not.

The results of both studies should further fuel the debate on the safety of this common soccer practice. The results of his recency study were the most clearly defined.

Webbe found that recent heading by players who headed with "moderate-to-high frequency" led in some cases to weaker neurocognitive performance. This lessened performance includes a decline in cognitive function, difficulty in verbal learning, in planning and maintaining attention and a reduced information processing speed.

"What we found is that if Bill plays soccer on a Thursday night, and is a frequent header, he's more likely to score lower on a neurocognitive test Friday morning than a similar player who heads the ball only occasionally," said Webbe.

While recent heading is not guaranteed to decrease functionality, Webbe said it presents a strong enough risk factor to warrant further study.

The two studies seem to contradict each other on the long-term effects of soccer heading. Webbe's work with Ochs reports that, "no significant or strong effect was found for lifetime heading on neuropsychological performance." But, his study with Adrienne D. Witol reached an opposite conclusion, noting "players with the highest lifetime estimates of heading had poorer scores on scales measuring attention, concentration, cognitive flexibility and general intellectual functioning."

Webbe acknowledged the apparent contradiction, but said that the research with Ochs does support the concept of long-term harm.

"Inside the groups of testers, we found that more individuals were likely to be impaired in the frequent heading groups than in the less frequent heading and control groups," he said. "The difference was three or five out of 20 impaired among the lifelong frequent headers as opposed to one or zero out of 20 in the control groups."

After these studies, Webbe is more convinced than ever that soccer heading affects brain function. He has an idea of why this activity can be so damaging.

"Generally, we accept the premise that if you head the ball with proper technique, then your risk for brain injury is lower. However, we have to acknowledge that during a game things happen to make the heading situation less than ideal," said Webbe. "If you leave your feet, or are challenged by an opponent, you may not be able to head the ball correctly. As a result, when you head the ball you are putting yourself in a position to sustain an insult to the brain."

Soccer referees do favor home teams, study shows

Academics have proved what football (soccer) managers in the English Premiership have been complaining about for years – that referees are inconsistent and favour home teams.

Analysing over 2,500 English Premiership matches, researchers discovered that referees were statistically more likely to award yellow and red cards against the away team – even when home advantage, game importance and crowd size were taken into account.

They also found clear evidence of inconsistency between referees – with some referees significantly more likely to punish players than others.

The academics behind the study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, hope that their research will give the football authorities the firm evidence they need to help improve football refereeing.

"The decisions made by referees can influence the result of games and their actions can have important financial consequences for the clubs and individuals involved," said Dr Peter Dawson, a Wigan fan and lecturer in Economics at the University of Bath.

"Managers have been right to highlight inconsistencies and controversial decisions in games, but without a proper analysis of refereeing decisions over a period of time, their comments look like the usual post-match gripe, especially if they are on the losing side.

"The evidence we have collected and analysed provides a firm factual foundation that will help football's authorities debate what positive action they might take to ensure fair and equitable refereeing of matches in the future.

"This could include encouraging referees to avoid what is presumably unintentional home team bias in their decision making, and examining the extent to which corrective action is allowed to vary between officials."

Researchers, from the universities of Bath (UK), Otago (New Zealand), St Andrews (UK) and Wales, Bangor (UK), analysed all 2,660 matches occurring in the English Premiership seasons from 1996/97 - 2002/3 for disciplinary offences (in terms of the number of yellow and red cards awarded) for home and away teams.

They then developed equations to account for the many different variables that could account for the variation in the number of disciplinary offences. For example, they allowed for teams to play better when they were at home and more aggressively when away, for games, such as top-of-the-table clashes, to be more keenly contested, and for larger crowds to (potentially) exert more influence on referees.

As well as finding a distinct home bias in refereeing disciplinary action and inconsistency between referees, the research also highlighted that:

underdogs tend to incur a higher rate of disciplinary sanction than favourites
the number of disciplinary offences tends to be higher in matches between evenly-balanced teams, in matches with end-of-season outcomes at stake and in matches with higher attendances
home teams appear to play more aggressively in front of larger crowds
the crowd size did not appear to influence the incidence of disciplinary sanction against the away team
there was no evidence that the behaviour of either teams or referees is any different when the match is televised.
"The football pitch is like a laboratory for crime economists," said Dr Dawson, from the University's Department of Economics & International Development.

"You can introduce a new rule or increase the severity of a punishment and then see how long it takes for the referees and the players to adjust their behaviour.

"In many ways this mirrors criminal behaviour on the streets where it takes criminals and law enforcers time to adjust to the implementation of a new law.

"One example highlighted in our findings is the introduction of the automatic red card for tackles from behind in the 1998/9 season.

"This season saw a rise in the number of bookings and sending-offs, but by the end of the season referees had learned how to implement the rules effectively and players had adjusted their behaviour accordingly."

This kind of learning behaviour has also been observed in college basketball in North America. When two referees were introduced there was an immediate tail-off in the number of fouls called in a game, suggesting that as referee competence increased, with fewer fouls being missed, the actual 'crime rate' must have decreased by even more than is suggested by the fall in the number of fouls called.

Such increased monitoring of games, including the use video replays, is clearly something the governing bodies of football need to look into despite the obvious costs involved.

"Football needs the same kind of in-depth analysis if we are to see improvements in the consistency of the important decisions made by referees," said Dr Dawson.

English football (soccer) is 30 times more boring

English football (soccer) is 30 times more boring than football (soccer) games in rest of world

Analysis of just English premier football league and cup games showed that English top division football is in fact 30 times less likely to have high scoring games than the rest of the world taken as a whole, and could thus be seen by some people as 30 times more boring.

In summary their analysis revealed that a total score over 10 goals in any one game occurs approximately only once in every 10,000 English top division matches (once every 30 years) but in top division matches world-wide, such a score is seen once in 300 games (about once every day).

Knee injury in women soccer players = early osteoarthritis

Knee injury in women soccer players linked to early osteoarthritis

One of the fastest growing team sports in America, particularly on college campuses, is women's soccer. Of the more than 17 million players participating in organized soccer nationwide, 7 million are female. While offering an equal opportunity playing field for student athletes, soccer has one unfortunate gender bias: women are more susceptible to knee injury. One of the most common is tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)--the ligament in the center of the knee that provides stability. In Sweden, where soccer is wildly popular and women have a shot at playing in a professional league, the risk of ACL injury is 3 to 4 times higher per game hour for young female players than for their male counterparts.
As too many soccer players know, tearing this pivotal ligament brings immediate pain and swelling, followed by a nagging fear of the knee suddenly giving-way. A recent study, published in the October 2004 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (, provides compelling evidence of serious risk of knee osteoarthritis (OA) and potentially crippling long-term consequences of a torn ACL for young female athletes. Conducted by a team of researchers at Lund University Hospital, and supported, in part, by the Swedish Soccer Federation, this study focused on 103 female soccer players, between the ages of 26 and 40, who had each suffered an ACL injury 12 years earlier, when they were between the ages of 14 and 28.

Each woman consented to knee radiographs, as well as answered questionnaires about her knee-related quality of life. More than half of the women were assessed as having OA of the knee, accompanied by persistent pain and functional limitations. What's more, 60 percent of the players had undergone reconstructive surgery of the torn ligament soon after sustaining their injury. Using various analyses, the researchers found that surgical reconstruction had no significant effect on knee pain or disabling symptoms. The surgical techniques used today for this injury might be more effective in preventing OA, but this has not yet been proven in scientific studies.

The study's leading researcher, L. S. Lohmander, M.D., Ph.D., describes the very high prevalence of pronounced OA among these young ACL-injured women as "alarming," with serious implications for their future. "For many of these women, the OA disease process can be expected to progress over time and the need for an osteotomy or knee arthroplasty may arise well before the age of 50 years in many of these subjects," Dr. Lohmander speculates. "Although joint replacement may be an efficient treatment for knee OA, the risk of aseptic implant loosening and revision is more than 3-fold higher in the patients operated on while younger than age 65 years, than if older than 75 years."

The first long-term study of the risk and complications of OA linked to this common and serious knee injury specifically among women soccer players, its findings emphasize the need for improved efforts at prevention and treatment of this torn ligament. "Randomized, controlled trials are needed in which different surgical techniques and rehabilitation protocols are compared directly with the best nonsurgical treatment," Dr. Lohmander concludes.

Score-celebration injuries among soccer players

New study indicates score-celebration feats result in serious injuries among soccer players

In one of the most popular sports worldwide, extensive attention is given to the "trademark" score-celebrations performed by professional top-level soccer players. While the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) devotes a page of their website to these dramatic celebrations, there has been no mention of the sometimes serious injuries and loss of playing time that have followed these events.
In a recent study published in the July 2005 issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers examined these events among professional soccer players in an effort to prevent future injuries.

Dr. Bulent Zeren from the Center for Orthopadedics and Sports Traumatology in Turkey, teamed up with Dr. Haluk H. Oztekin, to report on 152 male soccer players from professional leagues in Turkey who had been treated for injuries incurred during a competitive match. Over the duration of two playing seasons, 9 of the 152 players had injured themselves while performing a post-goal celebration. The injuries ranged from ligament and muscle strains as a result of 'Sliding' across the field to rib and clavicle fractures as a result of the players 'Piling Up' on each other. The most severe injury was an ankle fracture that required surgery. These injuries took place in 9 separate games where the field was natural turf and was dry in all but the incident requiring surgery. Although each patient was enrolled in an early rehabilitation program, the average playing time lost was 5 weeks.

The researchers of this study conclude that exaggerated celebrations after making a goal, such as sliding, piling up, and tackling teammates, can result in serious injury. Not only should general guidelines be in place to prevent injuries, but coaches and team physicians should teach behavior-modification to minimize injury risks. In addition, the research suggests that stricter rules should be enforced for penalizing this type of behavior in an effort to prevent score-celebration injuries.

The article "Score-Celebration Injuries Among Soccer Players" can be found on The American Journal of Sports Medicine's website at

New World Cup soccer ball will unsettle goalkeepers

New World Cup soccer ball will unsettle goalkeepers, predicts scientist

Scientist backs claims of top goalkeepers

The new soccer ball that will be used for the first time in the World Cup's opening game on Friday (9 June 2006) is likely to bamboozle goalkeepers at some stage of the tournament, a leading scientist has warned.
The Adidas 'Teamgeist' soccer ball has just 14 panels - with fewer seams - making its surface 'smoother' than conventional soccer balls which have a 26 or 32 panel hexagon-based pattern.

This makes it aerodynamically closer to a baseball and, when hit with a slow spin, will make the ball less stable, giving it a more unpredictable trajectory in flight.

"With a very low spin rate, which occasionally happens in soccer, the panel pattern can have a big influence on the trajectory of the ball and make it more unpredictable for a goalkeeper," said Dr Ken Bray, a sports scientist at the University of Bath and author of the new popular science book How to score – science and the beautiful game.

"Because the Teamgeist ball has just 14 panels it is aerodynamically more similar to the baseball which only has two panels.

"In baseball, pitchers often throw a 'curve ball' which is similar to a swerving free kick and the rotating seam disrupts the air flow around the ball in much the same way as a soccer ball does.

"Occasionally though, pitchers will throw a 'knuckleball' which bobs about randomly in flight and is very disconcerting for batters.

"It happens because pitchers throw the ball with very little spin and as the ball rotates lazily in the air, the seam disrupts the air flow around the ball at certain points on the surface, causing an unpredictable deflection.

"With the world's best players in Germany this summer, there are bound to be plenty of spectacular scoring free kicks.

"But watch the slow motion replays to spot the rare occasions where the ball produces little or no rotation and where goalkeepers will frantically attempt to keep up with the ball's chaotic flight path."

The ball, which has been used by teams competing in the World Cup in practice sessions, has already been criticised by England goalkeeper Paul Robinson and Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann for its light-weight and unpredictable behaviour.

Female Soccer Players Perform Best On A High-Fat Diet

Female Soccer Players Perform Best On A High-Fat Diet, UB Study Finds

Female soccer players were able to perform longer at a higher intensity on a diet composed of 35 percent fat than on diets of 27 percent fat or 24 percent fat, researchers at the University at Buffalo have found.

The higher-fat diet, achieved by adding peanuts to the athletes' normal diet, had no effect on weight, percentage of body fat, heart rate or blood pressure, findings showed.

Peter J. Horvath, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences in UB's School of Health Related Professions, presented the study here today (April 19, 1999) at the annual meeting of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology.

"The women went 1.2 to 1.5 kilometers farther before reaching exhaustion while doing very-high-speed intermittent exercise when on the high-fat diet, compared to the lower-fat diets," said Horvath. "That is really a striking difference.

"Women are better fat metabolizers than men. Our earlier dietary studies with male and female competitive runners showed that while both improved their performance on a higher-fat diet, women benefited more than men. One implication of these findings is that dietary recommendations for women athletes should be different from men's," he said.

The study involved nine female collegiate soccer players who ate three diets in a randomized crossover design -- their normal diet, normal diet plus 415 calories of oil-roasted peanuts per day, or normal diet plus an equal amount of extra calories from carbohydrate-rich energy bars. The women consumed each diet for seven days during the luteal phase (the second half) of the menstrual cycle, when a woman's ability to metabolize fat is greatest, Horvath said.

Carbohydrate intake was highest -- 63 percent of total calories -- during the energy-bar diet, and lowest -- 51 percent -- during the peanut diet. Fat was highest during the peanut diet -- 35 percent -- versus 24 percent on the energy-bar diet. Protein and calorie intake, and caloric expenditure remained essentially the same across the three diets.

Endurance testing was designed to mimic soccer play, using constant speed running and running at different rates on a treadmill, plus forward running with a side-step maneuver performed on a force plate. The athletes were tested until exhaustion on the seventh day of each diet. Treadmill speed increased progressively, which meant the longer the athletes performed, the harder they had to work.

Results showed that the soccer players traveled about 15 percent farther on the peanut diet than on normal diet with or without energy bars, with no lessening of muscle performance, as measured by the force plate.

"When women consumed the high-fat diet, they performed longer at the highest intensity," Horvath said. Distances were 11.2 km on the high-fat diet, 10 km on the normal diet and 9.7 km on the high-carbohydrate diet.

"These results support our thesis that supplementing the diets of female athletes with peanuts or other fat sources can help build up their energy reserves and improve performance," Horvath said. "A low-fat diet may result in a poorer performance for women in a long, intermittently intense sport like soccer, especially during the later phase of the menstrual cycle."

Heading ball finds no injury boost in soccer

Review study of 'heading' ball finds no injury boost in soccer

CHAPEL HILL - Contrary to many parents' concerns, soccer players who cause the ball to bounce forcefully off their heads in games or practices -- a technique called "heading" -- do not risk brain injuries, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill review study shows.

And the younger a player is, the less chance he or she has of getting hurt "heading" because young opponents cannot put much force behind their kicks, the lead researcher says.

"Based on the literature, we'd say that purposeful heading of a ball is not something parents should be concerned about," said Dr. Donald T. Kirkendall, clinical assistant professor of orthopedics at the UNC School of Medicine. "In fact, parents of children under age 12 have little reason to be concerned because heading in children's games tends to be a novelty, usually off a bounced or thrown ball, and kids just can't kick the ball that hard."

Kirkendall reviewed every study he could find on the subject. A report on the work appears in the May issue of Sports Medicine, a scientific review journal.

"In the late 1960s or early 1970s people started talking for the first time about what they called 'footballers' migraine,'" Kirkdendall said. "Back then, this could have been a problem because when the old leather ball got wet, it could become as much as 20 percent heavier. The modern soccer ball doesn't absorb water even if you play in the rain."

Later, in the 1980s Norwegian scientists published several papers implicating heading in neurological deficits, he said. That work did not account for other factors that could have contributed to the deficits such as previous head injuries, drug or alcohol problems, learning disabilities and other factors.

"The consensus of what we see today is that the force of impact from heading a soccer ball is fairly low," Kirkendall said. "Players prepare for heading the ball by tensing up their neck muscles and, in effect, put their entire body into the heading motion. We're not talking here about accidents in which the ball strikes someone's unprepared head."

Head injuries are possible in soccer, of course, but they result chiefly from players falling down, kicking one another, colliding with someone or running into a goal post, he said. Compared with tackle football, soccer usually produces minor injuries. Most involve bruises or lacerations, and other studies have shown that most of the few concussions fall into the mildest category. All players who strike their heads hard against anything and feel or look groggy should be removed from play for at least 15 to 20 minutes for trainers to check for lingering symptoms of concussion. Such trauma can alter mental function, producing grogginess and need not involve unconsciousness.

People who suspect a player might be concussed should not ask about deep-seated memories, such as what school they attend or what their name is, but about things that happened just before the event, Kirkendall said. If a player can't say what happened moments earlier, he or she might have an injury and should be removed from play and checked by a physician. Himself a longtime soccer player, Kirkendall once suffered a partially detached retina from a ball hitting him on the eye.

"A neurologist friend of mine, who also is a coach, once was ejected from a game for trying to get a referee to stop play so that he could get one of his players off the field for a head injury," he said. "He did the right thing for the girl and didn't care that he was thrown out."

Negative impacts of long-term soccer pl

OHSU Researcher studies possible negative impacts of long-term soccer play

Lower Mental Skills Testing Scores for Amateur Soccer Players May Be Linked to Headers and Head Injuries

Years of rough play on the soccer field may have a negative impact on a player's mental function. That's according to research reported by Dutch Neuropsychologist Erik J.T. Matser and Oregon Health Sciences University researcher Muriel D. Lezak, Ph.D., professor of neurology, School of Medicine. The conclusions are printed in the Sept. 8, 1999 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Headers -- hitting the ball with one's head -- have always been part of the game," Lezak said. "Matser has pointed out that, in addition to these subconcussive blows, many players have also suffered concussions on the playing field."

To learn the possible effects of these injuries, Lezak worked with a research team in the Netherlands to search for an answer. The resulting study showed amateur soccer players scored lower on tests for planning and some aspects of memory than athletes involved in non-contact sports.

A total of 60 athletes were involved in the study. Thirty-three soccer players were tested along with 27 control athletes. The control athletes were in the same physical shape, age group and education level as the soccer players. Both groups of athletes had been involved with their sport for an average of 17 years. However, the control athletes had not received repeated concussive and subconcussive blows to the head.

When compared to the control subjects, researchers found the soccer players exhibited impaired ability on tests relating to planning and memory. On the planning tests, 39 percent of soccer players had scores that indicated impaired performance compared to 13 percent of control athletes. On the memory tests, 27 percent of soccer players had test scores that showed impaired performance compared to 7 percent of control athletes. In addition, researchers found a relationship between the number of concussions incurred by soccer players and lower test scores.

The study is released as soccer enjoys growing popularity across the United States. Worldwide, more than 200 million athletes play the game. Here in the United States, the sport is popular among youngsters and adults alike. This past July, more than 40 million television viewers watched as the U.S. team beat China to win the 1999 Women's World Cup.

While the study's conclusion suggests the impact of heading and other soccer-related head injuries may be linked to decreased mental performance, the research indicates that the impairment appears to be mild.

"One or two bumps on the head are not going to seriously hurt anyone," Lezak said. "However, numerous subconcussive or concussive injuries present a medical and public health concern."

Broadcast Rights to the Italian Serie A

Fox Soccer Channel Acquires Exclusive, English-Language Broadcast Rights to the Italian Serie A Through 2010

America’s Preeminent Soccer Destination Becomes Exclusive Television Home to International Powerhouses AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan and AS Roma

Fox Soccer Channel today announced the acquisition of the exclusive, English-language broadcast rights to Italy’s world-renowned professional soccer league, Serie A. Beginning this August and running through the 2009/2010 season, Fox Soccer Channel’s in-depth coverage of Serie A will feature up to three live matches each weekend, plus a mid-week match when scheduled. Fox Soccer Channel will also introduce its first-ever, dedicated Serie A highlights show; recapping the weekend’s action, the half-hour program will air on Mondays. On-air commentators, and the complete telecast schedule, will be announced at a later date.

The rights were acquired from Media Partners & Silva, the international sports agency that owns and distributes the Italian Serie A media rights worldwide. As part of the agreement, Fox Soccer Channel will become the exclusive English-language television destination for Italian Serie A in the country.

“We are thrilled to be the only English-language network to bring to fans across the country the excitement, passion and glory of top-flight Italian soccer,” said David Sternberg, executive vice president and general manager of Fox Soccer Channel. “This new deal with the Italian Serie A, coupled with our renewed agreements with the English Premier League and Major League Soccer, is not only the perfect complement to our already strong offering of the most in-depth and comprehensive coverage of domestic and international soccer, but it also reaffirms Fox Soccer Channel’s position as the sport’s preeminent broadcaster in the U.S.”

While Fox Soccer Channel has offered coverage of a limited selection of Serie A matches during the past two years, starting this season, the network will telecast approximately 140 matches and more than 140 hours of additional live Serie A programming yearly, including coverage of Italian powerhouses AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus and AS Roma. With the addition of complete season coverage of Serie A, Fox Soccer Channel will now offer more than 1,600 total live programming hours each year.

“We are delighted to expand our partnership with Fox Soccer Channel as we work together to extend the visibility of the Italian Serie A on America’s premier soccer destination,” said Riccardo Silva, president of Media Partners & Silva. “We strongly feel that this new partnership will increase the popularity of the Italian game in the U.S., as well as enhance Fox Soccer Channel’s offering of world-class soccer.”

About Fox Soccer Channel

Fox Soccer Channel offers the most comprehensive coverage of world-class soccer available in the United States, including Major League Soccer, the Barclays English Premier League, Argentine First Division and Italian Serie A; as well as global tournaments such as the UEFA Cup, UEFA Women’s Championship, English FA Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, CONCACAF Champions’ Cup and FA Community Shield. The Official Broadcast Partner of the United States Youth Soccer Association, Fox Soccer Channel also televises United Soccer League and NCAA Division I college soccer matches. The channel reaches more than 29 million cable and satellite households in the U.S. and Caribbean.