Friday, November 9, 2012

Why Soccer Players Are Smarter

Complete article

Frequent heading of a soccer ball isn’t good for your brain..., but it’s not all bad news for participants of the world’s most popular sport: Soccer players are significantly smarter than, well, pretty much everyone, according to a new study in PLoS ONE.

When professional soccer players were tested on “executive function”—a key aspect in memory, multitasking, and creativity—they scored significantly higher than the general population. In fact, elite players belonged to the best 2 to 5 percent of the total population...

Why? Soccer players have to adapt constantly to a rapidly changing environment to perform well, says Petrovic. That’s easily translated to tests of executive functions like changing strategies and suppressing old, outdated plans, he adds.

“People assume that if you have a gifted arm or can kick a ball that you aren’t smart, you don’t need to be smart, or both,” says Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D., professor at West Virgina University. “High-level sport is physically demanding and requires high-level cognitive skills.”

“There’s a saying in soccer: You’re either physically gifted, or a student of the game,” says Kerry Zavagnin, assistant coach for the Sporting Kansas City and 11-time member of the U.S. Men’s National Team. “Someone who can read situations and think about solutions instead of always relying on the physical component is a student of the game—that’s how I played...”

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