Study claims footballers are in top two per cent of the population by brain power
17:44 GMT, 5 April 2012
A new study has found that footballers score higher than normal people on 'cognitive function' – brainpower – tests and that professionals are in the top two per cent of the populace.
The difference in mental horsepower also seems to be directly related to their abilities on the field, with players in higher divisions scoring higher on the same tests than ones in lower divisions.
The tests were broad tests for
'cognitive abilities' – but players seemed to score highly for
'executive functions', the brain functions that 'oversee' others and
allow people to make rapid responses to new situation.
Brains in his feet: A new study says footballers score higher than normal people on 'cognitive function' – brainpower – tests
Such abilities are obviously very different from, say, being well-read, or having been taught complex mathematics – but indicate a level of underlying intelligence.
The Swedish study authors say that footballers appear stupid simply because they 'don't have time' for education.
The process of thinking about a field in 3D and plotting tactics may be more demanding than people think.
The study's authors, at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, were unclear about whether football training enhances people's brain power, or if skilled footballers rise to the top because of their born intellectual brawn.
'The study cannot answer the question whether the difference
in executive functions mirrors practice or genes,' say the study authors.
'There is probably both an
inherited component and a component that is trained.'
Struggles: David Beckham has previously admitted to having difficulties with his children's maths homework
Vestberg, one of the study authors said in an interview with The
Times, 'To be a footballer, you must have physical ability and speed.
But that doesn't help if you don't have a brain that knows what to do. '
are not stupid. They are very clever. But they start to play soccer
when they are young. They don't have time for education. That's why they
sometimes look stupid.'
The study authors suggest that in future, clubs could even pick young players on the basis of mental abilities.
'Investment in soccer players is a risky business where predictive
tools are lacking,' say the authors.
'This study suggests that the precision in selecting future stars should include not only judgement of physical capacity. Our data suggest that neuropsychological tests may establish if a player has the capacity to reach top levels in soccer.'