Cognitive Functioning in UK-based Football (Soccer) Players, with emphasis on Social Cognition

Prof Doc Thesis

Mehmet, F. 2021. Cognitive Functioning in UK-based Football (Soccer) Players, with emphasis on Social Cognition. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsMehmet, F.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Introduction: An area of growing interest, the neuropsychological impact of sporting traumatic brain injuries has received considerable attention. Research has centred on boxing and the National Football League, with associations between sporting concussions and cognitive functioning widely acknowledged. The cumulative effect of mild sporting head injuries remains largely neglected. As the only sport incorporating head impacts (heading) as an integral part of the game, the world’s most popular sport, football (soccer), has received limited research. To date, social cognition remains entirely neglected in the footballing literature, despite recent media attention regarding the potential long-term neuropsychological impacts.
Aims: To explore associations between football-related behaviours, cognitive functioning, and the novel addition of social cognition, in a UK-based sample.
Method: A quantitative cross-sectional design, enabled twenty-five male footballers to complete a neuropsychological assessment battery of premorbid functioning, cognitive functioning, and social cognition.
Results: Weaknesses relative to the norm were revealed for cognitive measures of visual attention, verbal functioning, and verbal memory, and social cognitive measures of theory of mind (ToM) and affective empathy. Results emerged in a highly educated sample, with above average optimal functioning. Associations between football-related behaviours, verbal memory, visual attention, and all measures of social cognition were revealed. Associations between quantified and cumulative career football-related concussions, verbal memory, ToM, and emotion recognition are highlighted.
Discussion: Findings indicate precautionary adjustments in assessment, monitoring, and management processes where football head-impacts are apparent. Deficits in verbal memory and social cognition should be held in mind, with future confirmatory research and preventative care recommended.

KeywordsCognitive functioning; Social cognition; Football; Soccer
PublisherUniversity of East London
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Publication dates
Online12 Oct 2021
Publication process dates
Submitted13 Jul 2021
Deposited13 Oct 2021
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