Exposure assessment for repeated sub-concussive head impacts in soccer: The HEalth and Ageing Data IN the Game of football (HEADING) study

Ioannis Basinas, Damien M. McElvenny, Finley Brooker, Steven Robertson, Yvonne van Hoecke, Simon Kemp, Neil Pearce, Valentina Gallo, John W. Cherrie

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Abstract

The purpose of this paper was to develop exposure estimates for repetitive sub-concussive head impacts (RSHI) for use in epidemiological analyses. We used a questionnaire to collect lifetime history of heading and other head contacts associated with training and playing football from 159 former footballers all members of the English professional football association. We used linear mixed effect regression with player as the random effect, to model the number of headers, blows to the head and head-to-head impacts as a function of potential exposure affecting factors, which were treated as the fixed effects. Exposure affecting factors included playing position, league, context of play (game vs training) and decade of play. Age at time of response to the questionnaire was also included in the models. In model results, playing position was important, with RSHIs being highest among defenders and lowest among goalkeepers. Players headed the ball more during games than in training, and when playing in amateur or youth leagues compared with semi-professional or professional leagues. The average number of reported head impacts declined linearly throughout the observation period (1949–2015). The derived final model for headers explained 43%, 9% and 36% of the between player, within player and total variance in exposure, respectively with good precision and predictive performance. These findings are generally in agreement with previously published results pointing towards the models forming a valid method for estimating exposure to RSHI among former footballers although some further external validation is still warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114235
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Volume253
Early online date6 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Keywords

  • Exposure assessment
  • Head impacts
  • Heading
  • Professional soccer
  • Repetitive sub-concussive head impacts

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