Heading the ball appears to affect memory temporarily A recent study of Rugby players found they had suffered only low level memory problems after concussionsCredit:Andrew Fosker/Seconds Left/REX/Shutterstock After just a single session of heading they found that memory test performance fell by between 41 and 67 per cent.Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Magdalena Ietswaart from Psychology at the University of Stirling, said: “In light of growing concern about the effects of contact sport on brain health, we wanted to see if our brain reacts instantly to heading a football.“Using a drill most amateur and professional teams would be familiar with, we found there was in fact increased inhibition in the brain immediately after heading and that performance on memory tests was reduced significantly.“Although the changes were temporary, we believe they are significant to brain health, particularly if they happen over and over again as they do in football heading.“With large numbers of people around the world participating in this sport, it is important that they are aware of what is happening inside the brain and the lasting effect this may have.” Dr Angus Hunter, Reader in Exercise Physiology in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, added: “For the first time, sporting bodies and members of the public can see clear evidence of the risks associated with repetitive impact caused by heading a football.“We hope these findings will open up new approaches for detecting, monitoring and preventing cumulative brain injuries in sport. We need to safeguard the long term health of football players at all levels, as well as individuals involved in other contact sports.”However a study published last week by the University of Glasgow found that retired rugby players do not appear to suffer major problems in later life even if they suffer multiple concussions playing the game.Tom McMillan, professor of clinical neuropsychology from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow, said: “Despite a high number of repeat concussions in the retired rugby players, effects on mental health, social or work function were not evident some 20 years after they had stopped playing.”Overall, there is not a suggestion of widespread decline in daily function in ex-rugby internationalists who had a high number of repeat concussions.”Although some differences in memory were found, these were mild overall and their cause uncertain.”In recent years, doctors have noticed that high impact sports such as American football, ice hockey and rugby can lead to cognitive decline in later life, similar to that experienced by boxers. Heading the ball during a football match could cause memory problems for up to 24 hours, researchers have found.Although there has been several studies showing the dangers of concussions during contact sports, there has been none looking at the impact of regular smaller blows to the head.Researchers at the University of Stirling asked a group of football players to head a ball 20 times fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. They tested the players’ brain function and memory before and after the experiment, the results of which were published in the journal EBioMedicine. Memory performance dipped by up to 67 per centCredit:Mark Pain, Rex, Shutterstock The researchers say it is unclear whether the changes to memory would still remain temporary after repeated exposure to heading the ball over a long period of time.Football often involves intentional and repeated bursts of heading a ball leading doctors to fear it could have long-term health implications.Concussions suffered in sport have been linked to neurodegenerative disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.