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    A preliminary investigation into the efficacy of training soccer heading in immersive virtual reality

    Marshall, B ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2557-5399, Uiga, L ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5371-9428, Parr, JVV and Wood, G ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0851-7090 (2023) A preliminary investigation into the efficacy of training soccer heading in immersive virtual reality. Virtual Reality. ISSN 1359-4338

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    Abstract

    Recent research has suggested a link between repetitive soccer heading and the increased incidence of neurodegenerative disease in retired players. In response, restrictions have been introduced to limit the amount of soccer heading in training and competitive matches. Therefore, while heading remains an integral part of the game, players are restricted in the amount of training that they can gain on this important skill without potentially harming their long-term wellbeing. The aim of this study was to provide a preliminary investigation into the efficacy of training soccer heading in immersive virtual reality (VR) which allows the practice of the skill without the risk of repetitive head impacts. Thirty-six recreational soccer players were divided into a VR group (n = 18) who trained soccer heading on three occasions over a 7–10-day period in VR and a control group (n = 18) who received no training in soccer heading. Measures of real-world heading performance (i.e. the number of goals scored and shot accuracy), perceived confidence and perceived self-efficacy were assessed pre- and post-training. The results showed that the VR group experienced significant improvements in the number of goals scored and increased their perceptions of confidence and self-efficacy. These results show preliminary support for the inclusion of VR-based training in soccer heading where players can hone their heading skills without exposure to repeated head impacts. Implications and practical applications are discussed.

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