At the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, the first goal scored by the U.S. was a header. The stadium erupted as Alex Morgan launched the ball into the net with her forehead. It was the first of a record number of goals for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team at the tournament.
But what if goals like these could be dangerous? A growing body of research has linked heading the ball in soccer to the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), caused by repetitive impacts to the brain. The disease, which can develop into dementia, has been found in male football players, but almost nothing is known about how it develops in women, who take some of the hardest hits in soccer.