This study isn’t at all surprising, as one health begets another.
A great deal of focus these days is placed on the possible harm many athletes may be doing to their brains due to the hard hitting nature of contact sports like football or hockey. While the serious and debilitating nature of CTE-related and concussion injuries are indisputable at this point, an interesting new study conducted at Northwestern University is playing devil’s advocate in the debate surrounding sports and brain health.
Researchers say that as long as an athlete avoids head injuries, their brain is likely healthier than a non-athlete’s. This was found to be the case across a variety of sports, including contact sports like football, soccer, and hockey.
“No one would argue against the fact that sports lead to better physically fitness, but we don’t always think of brain fitness and sports,” says senior author Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, in a release. “We’re saying that playing sports can tune the brain to better understand one’s sensory environment.”
After analyzing close to 1,000 participants, including roughly 500 (both male and female) college Division I athletes, the study found that athletes develop an enhanced ability to quiet electrical noise in their minds. This makes it easier for athletes to quickly and efficiently process external sounds on hectic playing fields, such as their coach yelling instructions from the bench.
Hit the gym. Pass the ball. Read a book. EZ.