While the importance of physical abilities and motor coordination is non-contested in sport, more focus has recently been turned toward cognitive processes important for different sports. However, this line of studies has often investigated sport-specific cognitive traits, while few studies have focused on general cognitive traits. We explored if measures of general executive functions can predict the success of a soccer player. The present study used standardized neuropsychological assessment tools assessing players' general executive functions including on-line multi-processing such as creativity, response inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. In a first cross-sectional part of the study we compared the results between High Division players (HD), Lower Division players (LD) and a standardized norm group. The result shows that both HD and LD players had significantly better measures of executive functions in comparison to the norm group for both men and women. Moreover, the HD players outperformed the LD players in these tests. In the second prospective part of the study, a partial correlation test showed a significant correlation between the result from the executive test and the numbers of goals and assists the players had scored two seasons later. The results from this study strongly suggest that results in cognitive function tests predict the success of ball sport players.
Vestberg, T., Gustafson, R., Maurex, L., Ingvar, M., & Petrovic, P. (2012). Executive functions predict the success of top-soccer players. PLoS ONE, 7(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0034731