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An exciting research project funded by FIFA is currently underway, focusing on female footballers. Led by a team of esteemed researchers affiliated with the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH), the study aims to shed light on critical aspects related of women's football - identifying neurocognitive determinants of injury risk and understanding the impact of heading the ball on brain health.

The project is being led by Dr Flaminia Ronca, in collaboration with experts in various fields all affiliated with the ISEH, including Dr Megan Lowery, Prof Mike Loosemore, Prof Paul Burgess, Dr Georgie Bruinvels, Dr Jo Blodgett and Dr Chris JonesAdditionally, UCL students Evelyn Watson, Cian Xu, Isabel Metcalf, Monica Raviraj, Nicola Symeonides, and Gurkiran Sandhar, have been actively involved, bringing fresh perspectives to the research.

There are two primary objectives of the study:

1. Identify the neurocognitive determinants of injury risk in female footballers:

There is some evidence to suggest that female athletes might face unique challenges in certain phases of their menstrual cycle where, for example, their risk of injury in certain phases might be greater. Therefore, the focus of the first aim is uncovering the key mechanisms behind this potential risk, which could prove crucial in designing effective prevention strategies to safeguard players' health and reduce the occurrence of injuries.

2. Understand the impact of headers on brain health in female footballers.  

Research in team sports has begun to identify negative long-term effects of head impacts, raising concerns about brain health in athletes. Most studies in this field have been predominantly conducted on male athletes, leaving a significant gap in the understanding of potential gender-specific differences. This study seeks to bridge that gap by exploring whether heading the ball in football (soccer) has any immediate, potentially detrimental, effects on brain health in female athletes.

The researchers hope to contribute valuable insights that will support and benefit female athletes now and in the future. 

Associate Professor Flaminia Ronca at ISEH and UCL, and group co-lead, Exercise Neuroscience Research Group (ENRG) said: "It's fantastic to see the visibility that female football has been getting in the past years; we hope that our research will support female athletes to perform at their best and lower their risk of injury.”

This research is being funding by FIFA – we thank FIFA for investing in scientific research to safeguard the health and enhance the performance of women in football.