Cognitive Ageing in Top-Level Female Soccer Players Compared to a Normative Sample from the General Population: A Cross-sectional Study

Annika Prien*, Carolin Besuden, Astrid Junge, Nina Feddermann-Demont, Peter Brugger, Evert Verhagen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective:There is an ongoing debate on the potential negative effect of contact sport participation on long-term neurocognitive performance due to inherent exposure to concussive and subconcussive head impacts. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether cognitive ageing is exacerbated in elite soccer players compared to the general population.Method:Neurocognitive performance in 6 domains was compared between 240 elite soccer players and a normative sample from the general population (n = 585) using the computerised test battery CNS Vital Signs. We used two-way factorial ANOVA to analyse the interaction between age groups (15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49 years) and study population (female soccer players vs. norm sample) in their effects on neurocognitive performance.Results:We found no significant interaction effect of age group and study population in five of six test domains. For processing speed, the effect of age was more pronounced in female soccer players (F = 16.89, p =.002). Further, there was a clear main effect of study population on neurocognitive performance with generally better scores in soccer players.Conclusions:Elite female soccer players generally performed better than the norm sample on tests of cognitive function, and further, cognitive ageing effects were similar in elite soccer players and controls in all but one domain. A lifespan approach may facilitate insightful future research regarding questions related to long-term neurocognitive health in contact sport athletes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-653
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

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