Researchers at the University of Texas say that a header is classed as a ‘minor sub-concussive blow’ and have found that young people who play football are less able to perform tasks requiring basic thinking skills than those who avoid the game.

In a series of computer games, the scientists pitted female secondary school students who play football against those who did not.

The results, which were published in journal PLoS ONE, showed that the players were ‘significantly slower’ at a task that required pointing away from an on-screen target than non-players.