The working memory and other cognitive functions in children and young people can be associated with how successful they are on the football pitch, a new study from Karolinska Institutet shows. Football clubs that focus too much on physical attributes therefore risk overlooking future stars.
Physical attributes such as size, fitness and strength in combination with ball control have long been considered critical factors in the hunt for new football talent. The third, slightly elusive factor of “game intelligence” – to always be at the rights place at the right time – has been difficult to measure. In 2012, researchers at Karolinska Institutet provided a possible scientific explanation for the phenomenon, and showed that the so-termed “executive cognitive functions” in adult players could be associated with their success on the pitch. In a new study, which is published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, they show that cognitive faculties can be similarly quantified and linked to how well children and young people do in the game.
“This is interesting since football clubs focus heavily on the size and strength of young players,” says study leader Predrag Petrovic, at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. “Young players who have still to reach full physical development rarely get a chance to be picked as potential elite players, which means that teams risk missing out on a new Iniesta or Xavi.”
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