Soccer Is Basically Medicine, Some Researchers Argue

Compared to inactive people, recreational soccer players have lower cholesterol, blood pressure and resting heart rates as well as less fat mass, a research review suggests.

Compared to some other forms of exercise, including running and Zumba, soccer may also be just as beneficial to health, with added social, motivational and competitive benefits, the study team writes online January 25 in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Soccer training is an effective broad-spectrum prevention and treatment of lifestyle diseases for participants across the lifespan, independent of age, gender, fitness level or soccer skills,” said senior study author Peter Krustrup, a professor of sport and health sciences at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

“Altogether, comprehensive research shows that soccer is medicine, soccer is for almost all and soccer is for life,” Krustrup said by email.

Exercise has long been a cornerstone of the non-pharmaceutical treatment approaches to a range of diseases influenced by lifestyle habits such as high blood pressure, diabetes and bone deterioration. Plenty of previous research also links high-intensity interval training to improved cardiovascular fitness and strength training to gains in bone and muscle health.

For the current study, researchers examined data from 31 previously published studies of the effects of soccer on blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat composition, metabolic health and jumping ability. Across all of the studies, researchers looked for the size of the effect soccer appeared to have on these different aspects of health and compared it to no exercise or to other forms of exercise.

Soccer was much better for blood pressure than being inactive. When researchers looked at systolic blood pressure (SBP), they found soccer was associated with average decreases of 4.2 mmHg. With diastolic blood pressure (DBP), soccer was linked to average decreases of 3.89 mmHg.

The size of the benefit tied to soccer appeared even bigger among people who had slightly elevated blood pressure or already had mild hypertension.

The American Heart Association defines hypertension as SBP of 130 mmHg or higher and DBP of 80 mmHg or higher. When people had slightly elevated blood pressure that wasn’t yet above the threshold for hypertension, soccer was associated with decreases of 10 mmHg SBP and 7 mmHg DBP.

People with mild hypertension who played soccer experienced average decreases of 11 mmHg SBP and 7 mmHg DBP, compared with inactive individuals.

Soccer players also had a resting heart rate of about 6 beats per minute slower than inactive individuals.

Only a few small studies included in the analysis compared soccer to other forms of exercise. They found that compared to a running regimen or to the cardio dance exercise Zumba, soccer held its own with regard to blood pressure, body fat, heart rate, LDL “bad” cholesterol and jumping performance.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove that soccer directly benefits health.

Football, as soccer is called in most places outside the U.S., obviously isn’t the only way to get exercise, but the current study results suggest that it may be one of the best options around, said Andre Seabra, director of the Portugal Football School, Federacao Portuguesa de Futebol and a sports professor at the University of Porto.

“The evidence of health benefits combined with the fact that football is very popular, cheap and easy to implement, and has very simple rules, are more than enough reasons for the population to choose to practice it,” Seabra, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

Paralyzed Man Kicks Off World Cup .

Wearing an exoskeleton that relayed signals from his brain to his legs, a 29-year-old with complete paralysis of the lower trunk performed the ceremonial first kick of the international sporting event.


The suit that Nicolelis helped build in the laboratoryBIGBONSAI + LENTEVIVA FILMES


Juliano Pinto, a 29-year-old Brazilian man, wore a robotic suit that worked via a brain-machine interface (BMI) and nudged a soccer ball with his foot, sending it rolling down a short mat in Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena yesterday (June 12). The gesture was small, but it was the culmination of years of research, carried out by dozens of scientists studying BMIs. And it was the ceremonial first kick of soccer’s World Cup, which got underway with a match between host nation Brazil and Croatia (Brazil won 3-1).

“We did it!!!!” tweeted Miguel Nicolelis, the Duke University neuroscientist who headed the team of researchers that worked on the project. Seven other paralyzed people who had trained alongside Pinto watched from the sidelines. “It was a great team effort, and I would like to especially highlight the eight patients who devoted themselves intensively to this day,” Nicolelis said in a statement from the Walk Again Project, the international consortium of researchers and funders behind the work. “It was up to Juliano to wear the exoskeleton, but all of them made that shot. It was a big score by these people and by our science.”


Pinto’s suit included an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap containing electrodes that magnified nervous impulses from his brain and sent them to processors that decoded the signals and then relayed them to hydraulics that moved the exoskeleton strapped to his legs.

Despite Nicolelis’s exuberance, other researchers working on BMI weren’t so impressed. “The demo did not advance the state of the art,” Jose Contreras-Vidal, a biomedical engineer at the University of Houston, told NBC News. His team has been working on their own BMI exoskeleton, the NeuroRex, a suit that pioneered the EEG-based control of bionic legs. “Certainly our NeuroRex was the first and remains the only brain-controlled exoskeleton to allow spinal cord injury patients to walk over-ground unassisted, and we have been able to do so with about 10 percent of the funding Dr. Nicolelis has received to develop their exo.” The Brazilian government poured $14 million into the Walk Again Project over the past two years, Nicolelis told Agence France-Presse.

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Response to acute concussive injury in soccer players: is gender a modifying factor?

Several studies have suggested a gender difference in response to sports-related concussion (SRC). The Concussion in Sport group did not include gender as a modifying factor in SRC, concluding that the evidence at that point was equivocal. In the present study the authors endeavored to assess acute neurocognitive and symptom responses to an SRC in equivalent cohorts of male and female soccer players. The authors hypothesized that female athletes would experience greater levels of acute symptoms and neurocognitive impairment than males.


Baseline symptom and neurocognitive scores were determined in 40 male and 40 female soccer players by using the Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) scale prior to any SRC. After sustaining an SRC, each athlete completed postconcussion ImPACT tests and was carefully matched on a wide array of biopsychosocial variables. Baseline symptom and neurocognitive test scores were compared, and their acute symptoms and neurocognitive responses to concussive injury were assessed.


Specific a priori hypotheses about differences between males and females at baseline and at postconcussion measurements of verbal and visual memory ImPACT scores were evaluated according to simple main effects of the gender variable and according to baseline-to-postconcussion main effect and interaction of 2 × 2 split-plot ANOVA. Neither the interaction nor the main effects nor the simple main effects for either ImPACT variable were found to be statistically significant. Exploratory ANOVAs applied to the remaining ImPACT variables of visualmotor speed, reaction time, impulse control, and symptom total scores revealed only a single statistically significant baseline-to-postconcussion main effect for the symptom total.


The results failed to replicate prior findings of gender-specific baseline neurocognitive differences in verbal and visual memory. The findings also indicated no differential gender-based acute response to concussion (symptoms or neurocognitive scores) among high school soccer players. The implications of these findings for the inclusion of gender as a modifying factor in this tightly matched cohort are addressed. Potential explanations for the null findings are discussed.

Source: Journal of Neurosurgery