Footballers are smarter than PhD students, claims survey

Professional athletes use 'hyper-focus' to develop superior cognitive skills

LAST UPDATED AT 12:22 ON Fri 1 Feb 2013

THE OLD stereotype of the stupid footballer may have to be consigned to history after a new study claimed that players have better cognitive skills than undergraduates and even PhD students.

Research by Canadian academic Jocelyn Faubert, of the University of Montreal, found that sports stars were able to "hyper-focus" when doing tests, thanks to physical differences in their brains.

Footballers from Manchester United took part in the study along with NHL ice hockey players in Canada and French Super 14 rugby players. Amateur athletes and students were also involved.

All the volunteers were set complex visual challenges on a machine called a Neurotracker, such as following 3D balls as they moved around a screen, to test their perceptual and cognitive abilities. During the survey it became clear that professional athletes were able to learn how to track fast-moving objects much more quickly than the other groups.

And according to The Daily Telegraph the findings could even lead to new ways of treating people with attention problems.

"It would appear that athletes are able to hyper-focus their attention to enhance learning, which is key to their abilities," said Faubert. "You're not going to ask a footballer to explain the theory of relativity. They might not be able to express themselves verbally or be good with numbers, but intelligence comes in many varieties."

The Times commented: "The findings suggest that prowess on the pitch is not simply a case of physical talent or 'muscle memory' but also the result of well-honed mental abilities." It added that United have adopted the tests as a form of brain-training to speed up their players' reflexes.

However, some people appear to have got carried away by the findings. "John Terry is brainier than physics super-boffin Professor Stephen Hawking," exclaimed The Daily Star. · 

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Wow! So they can follow a moving object with their eyes better than others. How smart they must be based on that alone!

The headline should read "Footballers better at visually tracking objects than PHD students"

But then nobody would click on the link! The internet is all about misrepresentation.

Isn't there some law against about newspapers claiming things that aren't true? Neither the study or it's authors suggest "Footballers are smarter than PhD students", so how come that's in the headline?

Or even "People trained to visually track moving objects better at visually tracking moving objects than people not trained to do so!" Not quite as controversial though.

sportsmen good at hand to eye co-ordination shocker!!!

All I can say is David Beckham at any press conference, and Paul Gascoin singing :The Fog on the Tyne". QED!

I wonder how they would stack up against Fighter pilots who have to track objects on the X,Y and Z axis in both +ve and -ve situations? eg: tracking another aircraft as you pull up into a loop, and fly inverted before deciding whether to break left or right, still watching the other aircraft, and monitoring a HUD system, showing multiple bits of information.

"I couldn't settle in Italy. It was like living in a foreign country."
Ian Rush

"My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7."
David Beckham

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