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Going for a Header

Soccer players with a certain APOE allele may be more likely to have memory problems if they head the ball frequently, HealthDay reports.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 352 amateur soccer players in which they genotyped the players and had the players fill out a questionnaire every three to six months to gauge how often they headed the ball. The players' verbal memory was also assessed. 

As they report in JAMA Neurology, the researchers found that increased heading of the ball was associated with poorer verbal memory. While APOE genotype itself was not associated with performance on the verbal memory task, individuals with the APOE ε4 who headed the ball more performed worse on the verbal memory task than those who didn't head the ball much.

"This is important because heading is generally seen as inconsequential," lead researcher Michael Lipton from Albert Einstein tells HealthDay. He adds that "[m]ost people have relatively modest exposure and don't seem to be adversely affected. It's really whether you have other risk factors like this gene."