Do Elite and Amateur Soccer Players Outperform Non-Athletes on Neurocognitive Functioning? A Study Among 8-12 Year Old Children


Research suggested a positive association between physical fitness and neurocognitive functioning in children. Aim of the present study is to investigate possible dose-response relationships between diverse daily physical activities and a broad range of neurocognitive functions in preadolescent children. Furthermore, the relationship between several sedentary behaviours, including TV-watching, gaming and computer time, and neurocognitive functioning will be investigated in this group of children.

A total of 168 preadolescent boys, aged 8 to 12 years, were recruited from various locations, including primary schools, an amateur soccer club, and a professional soccer club, to increase variability in the amount of participation in sports. All children performed neurocognitive tasks measuring inhibition, short term memory, working memory, attention and information processing speed. Regression analyses examined the predictive power of a broad range of physical activities, including sports, active transport to school, physical education (PE), outdoor play, and sedentary behaviour such as TV-watching and gaming, for neurocognitive functioning.

Time spent in sports significantly accounted for the variance in inhibition, short term memory, working memory and lapses of attention, where more time spent in sports was associated with better performance. Outdoor play was also positively associated with working memory. In contrast, time spent on the computer was negatively associated with inhibition.

Results of the current study suggest a positive relationship between participation in sports and several important neurocognitive functions. Interventions are recommended to increase sports participation and to reduce sedentary behaviour in preadolescent children.


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