Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and, since it is a contact sport, players are at risk for head injury, including concussion. Here, we proposed to investigate the association of heading and concussion with macroscopic brain structure among adult amateur soccer players. For this study, 375 amateur soccer players (median age 23 years) completed HeadCount-12m to estimate heading over the 12 months prior to MRI and lifetime concussion. T1-weighted 3D magnetization prepared rapid acquisition gradient echo (MP-RAGE) MRI was performed at 3 Tesla. Parcellation was performed using Freesurfer to extract regional gray and white matter volumes as well as regional cortical thickness and total intracranial volume. Regional cortical brain volumes were normalized by total intracranial volume. We categorized heading into quartiles and concussion as 0, 1 or 2 or more. Generalized linear regressions were used to test the association of heading or concussion with each brain morphometry metric, including age and sex, as covariates. Neither heading nor concussion were associated with reduced brain volume or cortical thickness. We observed that greater heading was associated with greater gray matter volume in the left inferior parietal area, which may reflect effects related to training.
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