HITG goes NL!

HITG goes NL!

Recent heading study emphasises need to investigate brain health in female athletes

As we finalise data collection in Germany, the HITG project goes west – to the Netherlands. With ambassador Leonne Stentler, former Dutch national team player, and the VU University medical centre as our partners, we are excited to tackle our next and final data collection phase.

I was surprised when I heard that women are more prone to concussions than men and that there is still almost no research with female football players, only with male players. We have to change that!
– Leonne Stentler –

In the Dutch arm of the study, long-term health of elite athletes and football players will remain our main focus. We are extending our efforts to investigate neurocognitive health specifically, by adding an MRI scan of the brain to our test battery in the Netherlands. The discussion around the risks of repeat head impacts is ongoing and especially potential negative consequences for female football players need further investigation.

A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience reports that women may be more vulnerable to the effects of heading than men. While microstructural changes related to heading were found in three brain regions in men, eight brain regions were affected in women. This news is of concern to many female athletes. Nia Künzer, a former Team Germany player, said on national TV that she hopes her football career “stays without consequences”.

It remains unclear, why women are more vulnerable to the effects of head impacts than men. However, it is clear that there is an urgent need to investigate the consequences of repeat head impacts in female athletes specifically. Through our study in the Netherlands we aim to help close this knowledge gap and analyse the structure and function of brain networks in former female athletes in detail.

Take part now and help us understand how to best protect female athlete health in the future!


The goal of the Head in the Game project is to evaluate and improve long-term health in elite men's and women's football. The main question we seek to answer is: does a professional football career have any consequences for the musculoskeletal or neurocognitive health of former players?

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