To investigate the effects heading a ball has on the brain of adolescent players, a number of simulations were performed using the University College Dublin Brain Trauma Model (UCDBTM).
Simulations were performed by impacting a conventional soccer ball with the UCDBTM at a velocity of 22 m/s. We also investigate the potential of replacing the soccer ball with a foam ball, and reducing the velocity of the ball to 2.2 m/s.
The results show that replacing the soccer ball with a foam ball, and reducing the velocity results in substantially lower strains within the brain. The reduction in strain can be brought well below the proposed thresholds for brain injury (~10% strain).
In conclusion, when practicing or learning how to header a soccer ball, the conventional soccer ball should be replaced with a foam ball to reduce the strains in the brain below the injury threshold. More details of the in-depth study will be made available to federations and governing bodies on request.
A 2018 study by UCD student Shane Freeman can be found here.