Exercise and physical activity appears to have profound effects on the brain. Neuroimaging techniques (like functional MRI) have shown that exercise leads to changes in brain structure and function. It has been shown that physical activity can be an effective treatment for depression, improve memory and be beneficial for both the treatment and prevention of a variety of neurological conditions. Exercise promotes the release of various neurotransmitters and has been found to promote the generation of new neurons in some situations.
Exercise exerts its effects on the brain through several mechanisms. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and stimulate the release of growth factors. Indirectly, exercise can improve an athlete’s mood and sleep as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Each of these factors is likely to enhance cognitive function.
Participation in football, and other forms of exercise, can provoke some underlying neurological conditions (like migraines) but can also be an effective method of controlling and managing other conditions (like epilepsy and other seizure disorders). As a result, it is important that doctors looking after football players be aware of these conditions.