To determine the acute effects of repetitive soccer heading on postural control.
Prospective study; participants were divided into 2 groups: a soccer heading group and a control group.
One hundred sixty participants, including youth (age = 13.0 ± 0.8 years), high school (age = 17.2 ± 1.0 years), and collegiate (age = 20.2 ± 1.3 years) male and female soccer players, participated in this study.
Participants in the soccer heading group performed 12 soccer headers (initial velocity = 11.2 m/s). Postural control testing was performed both before (PRE) and immediately after (POST) the purposeful soccer headers. Control participants performed postural control testing PRE and POST a 15-minute wait period. During postural control testing, participants were asked to stand on the MobileMat (Tekscan Inc, Boston, Massachusetts) for two 2-minute intervals with their hands on their hips and their feet together with one eyes-open and one eyes-closed trial.
Main Outcome Measures:
Using the center-of-pressure data, 95% area, sway velocity, and ApEn were calculated. Multilevel linear models were used to analyze the effects of age, sex, group, condition, and concussion history simultaneously.
Participants in the soccer heading group had significantly higher sway velocity POST than participants in the control group after controlling for age, sex, concussion history, condition, and PRE (t = −3.002; P = 0.003; 95% confidence interval, −0.482 to −0.100). There were no significant differences from PRE to POST for 95% area, M/L ApEn, and A/P ApEn.
Repetitive soccer heading does not affect most postural control measures, even among youth athletes. However, sway velocity increased after heading relative to control participants independent of age, sex, and concussion history.