Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 792–798 | Cite as

Cortical thinning in former professional soccer players

  • Inga K. Koerte
  • Michael Mayinger
  • Marc Muehlmann
  • David Kaufmann
  • Alexander P. Lin
  • Denise Steffinger
  • Barbara Fisch
  • Boris-Stephan Rauchmann
  • Stefanie Immler
  • Susanne Karch
  • Florian R. Heinen
  • Birgit Ertl-Wagner
  • Maximilian Reiser
  • Robert A. Stern
  • Ross Zafonte
  • Martha E. Shenton
Original Research

Abstract

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Soccer players are at high risk for repetitive subconcussive head impact when heading the ball. Whether this leads to long-term alterations of the brain’s structure associated with cognitive decline remains unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate cortical thickness in former professional soccer players using high-resolution structural MR imaging. Fifteen former male professional soccer players (mean age 49.3 [SD 5.1] years) underwent high-resolution structural 3 T MR imaging, as well as cognitive testing. Fifteen male, age-matched former professional non-contact sport athletes (mean age 49.6 [SD 6.4] years) served as controls. Group analyses of cortical thickness were performed using voxel-based statistics. Soccer players demonstrated greater cortical thinning with increasing age compared to controls in the right inferolateral-parietal, temporal, and occipital cortex. Cortical thinning was associated with lower cognitive performance as well as with estimated exposure to repetitive subconcussive head impact. Neurocognitive evaluation revealed decreased memory performance in the soccer players compared to controls. The association of cortical thinning and decreased cognitive performance, as well as exposure to repetitive subconcussive head impact, further supports the hypothesis that repetitive subconcussive head impact may play a role in early cognitive decline in soccer players. Future studies are needed to elucidate the time course of changes in cortical thickness as well as their association with impaired cognitive function and possible underlying neurodegenerative process.

Keywords

Repetitive subconcussive head impact Soccer Cortical thickness Aging Traumatic brain injury 

Abbreviations

BIS

Barrett Impulsivity Score

BESS

Balance error scoring system

ROCF

Rey osterrieth complex figure

RSHI

Repetitive subconcussive head impact

TMT A

Trailmaking Test A

TMT B

Trailmaking Test B

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inga K. Koerte
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michael Mayinger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marc Muehlmann
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • David Kaufmann
    • 2
    • 4
  • Alexander P. Lin
    • 1
    • 5
  • Denise Steffinger
    • 2
  • Barbara Fisch
    • 2
  • Boris-Stephan Rauchmann
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stefanie Immler
    • 6
  • Susanne Karch
    • 7
  • Florian R. Heinen
    • 6
  • Birgit Ertl-Wagner
    • 2
  • Maximilian Reiser
    • 2
  • Robert A. Stern
    • 8
  • Ross Zafonte
    • 9
  • Martha E. Shenton
    • 1
    • 5
    • 10
  1. 1.Psychiatry Neuroimaging LaboratoryBrigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Clinical RadiologyLudwig-Maximilian-UniversityMunichGermany
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatic and PsychotherapyLudwig-Maximilian-UniversityMunichGermany
  4. 4.Department of RadiologyCharité BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s HospitalHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  6. 6.Department of Pediatric Neurology and Developmental MedicineDr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilian-UniversityMunichGermany
  7. 7.Department of PsychiatryLudwig-Maximilian-UniversityMunichGermany
  8. 8.Departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Anatomy & NeurobiologyBoston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Boston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  9. 9.Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation HospitalMassachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  10. 10.VA Boston Healthcare SystemBostonUSA

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