Footballers are smarter than PhD students, claims survey
Professional athletes use 'hyper-focus' to develop superior cognitive skills
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.