We don’t know about football players, but English Premier League soccer players, NHL hockey players, France’s Top 14 club rugby players, and even elite amateur athletes have better developed cognitive functions than the average university student.
Optometrist Jocelyn Faubert studied the increased cortical thickness that has been found in areas of trained athletes’ brains (due to so many concussions?) She says, "Study participants were asked to describe a series of simulated objects moving through three dimensions. Although the context had nothing to do with any specific sport, we found that professional athletes were able to process the visual scenes much better than amateur athletes who were in turn better than the students."
The cognitive requirements for correctly interpreting the abstract moving scenes parallel situations such as driving, crossing the street or, case in point, performing sport. She says, "It would appear that athletes are able to hyper-focus their attention to enhance learning, which is key to their abilities.
"However, it is unclear whether this superior learning ability is unique to professional athletes, and moreover whether these are innate skills that led them to be selected by these teams, or whether these skills have been acquired through extensive training," Faubert says.