Wheeling Jesuit University

WJU Research Shows 'Heading' a Soccer Ball Can Effect Sense of Smell

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WHEELING, W.Va., March 2, 2015 -- Researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) recently discovered that “heading” a soccer ball has a negative impact on a players' sense of smell.

Senior psychology major Emily Robinson and Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, professor of psychology, conducted a study -- “The Effects of Soccer Ball Heading on Scent Perception: Severity of Effects in Adolescence During High School Competition.”

Robinson and Raudenbush examined 70 high school soccer players - 30 males and 40 females to determine if heading a soccer ball frequently or at a high intensity impacted the olfactory functions. The soccer players were asked to complete a brief survey about their playing history and then asked to complete the Brief Smell Identification Test (BSIT).

Additionally, they examined what effect frequency and intensity of heading the ball had on the players' sense of smell.

Once initial testing was done, Robinson and Raudenbush separated the players into two groups for more testing - a high and low group based on the number of times a ball was headed and a high and low group based on the intensity with which the ball was headed.

“We discovered that those players who headed the ball more frequently and with greater intensity had more difficulty identifying scents correctly,” Robinson said.

Additionally, she noted that “males who headed the ball with more intensity and more frequently performed significantly worse in scent identification than females.”

Dr. Raudenbush said of Robinson's research, “From Emily's study we see that the effects of soccer ball heading begin much earlier than collegiate play. These high school students show decreased scent identification, which, without intervention, will most likely continue to decrease.”

The testing was conducted during the summer of 2014. Robinson and Raudenbush spent two months analyzing the data before releasing the findings.

Robinson received funding from the Appalachian College Association Ledford Scholarship and the NASA West Virginia Undergraduate Student Fellowship to conduct this research.


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