Forget the idea of the dumb athlete, a new study shows that professional athletes have BETTER brains. In fact, psychologists, rather than coaches, are devising tests to tell how good a soccer player will become in the future.
It has long been known that physical ability and ball sense are not enough to become really good at soccer. A third vital component has often been mentioned: game intelligence, which is the ability to ‘read’ the play, to be always in the right place at the right time, and steal goals. Many people have regarded game intelligence to be almost a magical ability, something that is impossible to measure. But now researchers think they can do it.
Scientists found that soccer players performed much better in tests of executive functions than the general population. Science Daily quotes neuroscientist Predrag Petrovic as saying, "Our brains have specific systems that process information in just this manner, and we have validated methods within cognitive research to measure how well the executive functions work in an individual."
Measuring what are known as ‘executive functions’, which reflect the cognitive ability to deal with sudden problems, may make it possible to predict how good an elite soccer player will become in the future. This has been shown by a new study from Karolinska Institutet. Scientists believe for the first time that they have found the scientific key to what has previously been described as ‘game intelligence’ in successful soccer players.
Science Daily quotes psychologist Torbjorn Vestberg as saying, "We can imagine a situation in which cognitive tests of this type become a tool to develop new, successful soccer players. We need to study whether it is also possible to improve the executive functions through training, such that the improvement is expressed on the field. But there is probably a hereditary component, and a component that can be developed by training."
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