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Danny Jackson on For Elite Players, Smarts Equal Success on the Field

Daniel (Danny) Jackson is a former Major League Soccer (MLS) player and was captain of the Seattle Sounders. SN is pleased to bring readers Danny Jackson’s column with insights into the professional world of soccer.

A recent study conducted by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden got me thinking about premier soccer players and intelligence.

The study, which eviscerated the stereotype of the dumb jock, found that athletes actually exercise their neurologic pathways along with their muscles. Researchers found elite soccer players demonstrated above-average cognitive abilities, particularly in the area of executive function: creative problem solving, multi-tasking, inhibition and working memory (the ability to recall and apply previously stored information on-the-spot).

The study did not resolve the classic “chicken-and-egg” question of whether smart players simply perform better, or whether playing premier soccer makes players smarter. The researchers credited both – a combination of good genes and excellent training.

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