Study: Cognitive Abilities Equate To Success, Goals ScoredBy: The Offside | April 5th, 2012
Though executive functions do not equate to simple intelligence, for the purposes of not caring to delve into the neurosciences, we can think that Lionel Messi is the second coming of Goethe or Newton.
Which also means he can do long division, the true barometer of high intelligence.
On the list of things which science did not need to devote its time and resources is the relationship between goals scored by and the success of footballers and executive functions. They did anyway.
The Karolinska Institutet in Sweden is your champion.
It has long been known that physical ability and ball sense are not enough to become really good at football. A third vital component has often been mentioned: game intelligence, which is the ability to ‘read’ the play, to be always in the right place at the right time, and steal goals. Many people have regarded game intelligence to be almost a magical ability, something that is impossible to measure.
The scientists at Karolinska Institutet, however, claim that game intelligence is hardly mystical, and that it can be understood from a scientific perspective. It is, rather, an example of something that cognitive scientists call executive functions, which encompass the ability to be immediately creative, to be able to see new solutions to problems, to change tactics rapidly and to revise previous behaviour that has proved not to work.
Dr Petrovic and his colleagues report in one study, to be published in the on-line scientific journal PLoS ONE, tests of certain executive functions in football players in Allsvenskan (the highest Swedish league) and in Division 1 (the league under Allsvenskan), a total of 57 elite footballers. The scientists found that football players in both groups performed much better in tests of executive functions than the general population. And they found that players in Allsvenskan achieved much better results in these tests than players in Division 1.
The study then compared the test results with the performance of the players on the pitch. The scientists followed several of the football players for some years and recorded the number of goals and the number of assists each player made. In this way, each player was awarded points related to his or hers performance on the pitch. A clear correlation appeared between the results of the tests of executive functions and the number of points obtained on the football pitch (when corrected for such factors as a player’s position and age).