Effects of Soccer Ball "Heading" on Scent Perception: Severity of Effects in Adolescence During High School Competition (Ledford Update)

Past research on soccer players caught my interest and led me to further examine olfactory functioning of high school soccer players. The Human Psychophysiology Laboratory at Wheeling Jesuit University is where I conducted my first research on college soccer players. Through these experiments our lab found that heading the ball with greater frequency and intensity led to damage in soccer players' olfactory functioning. This evidence made me to wonder if the damage to soccer players' sense of smell occurred before college, which is the research I conducted this summer.

My summer has been filled with questionnaires and analyzing data. First, the participants had to fill out a consent form and have their parents sign it if they were under 18 years old. Then, the local high school soccer players filled out soccer questionnaires that asked their age, sex, years played, number of ball "headings" per game, intensity of "heading" the ball, dizziness after "heading" the ball, and number of concussions. After finishing the questionnaires, the participants completed the Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT).

Once I gathered all of the data from the 70 participants, I analyzed the data with my professor, Dr. Raudenbush. The results were significant. Through an independent t-test we found females were able to identify more scents correctly on the Brief Smell Identification Test than males. Also, after separating low "heading"  intensity, 0 to 5, and high "heading" intensity, 6-10, and conducting a Two Between ANOVA the results showed participants with low heading intensity could identify more scents correctly on the Brief Smell Identification Test. We also looked at only males and found males with low heading intensity identified more scents correctly than the males with high heading intensity. The same results were found when we separated the participants into low heading frequency and high heading frequency. The high heading frequency soccer players did worse at identifying scents. Also, when strictly looking at the males the high frequency heading males did significantly worse at identifying scents on the Brief Smell Identification Test compared to low frequency heading males.

Finally, we conducted a correlation on each question from the questionnaire and age. Significance was found in these results as well, showing as males get older they are "heading" the ball with more frequency. The results of this research show that soccer players do significantly worse at identifying scents if they head the ball more frequently and also if they head the ball with more intensity. This is shown more with males than females.

Overall, this summer research was a success and I enjoyed every minute of it. Now, I am spending my time writing the report and thinking of the implications of this research. I plan to continue researching soccer players in the future and finding ways to help them prevent damaging their olfactory functioning.

-Emily Robinson