Assessing effort on baseline testing by athletes and normal controls using WMT and ImPACT

Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology -


Sucharski, N. and P. Schatz.



Objective: To identify the number of athletes and normal controls who display poor effort on baseline neurocognitive testing performance on ImPACT, as measured by performance on the Word Memory Test (WMT). Methods: Participants were 77 athletes completing mandatory baseline evaluations, as required for participation in athletic activities, and 78 age-matched undergraduate students volunteering as normal controls through the Psychology Department human subjects pool. All participants completed the immediate and delayed recall subscales of the WMT, as well as the ImPACT test battery. Results: Using a WMT cutoff of 95%, 38% ofathletes and 45% of controls showed poor effort. Participants were assigned to independent groups on the basis of passing or failing the WMT. MANOVA revealed a significant effect of effort on baseline test performance [F(6, 148) = 4.51; p < 0.0001]. Univariate analyses revealed that participants showing poor effort on WMT scored significantly lower on all ImPACT indices (verbal and visual memory, processing speed, reaction time, total symptoms), except for impulse control. Conclusions: Given the wide-spread use of computer-based tests for the purpose of documenting baseline cognitive function in athletes, neuropsychologists and sports-medicine professionals should utilize external measures of athletes’ effort. Further, employing normal controls from human subjects pools may provide less accurate comparisons than desired.

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