Baseline neuropsychological performance among college athletes on a sport-related concussion assessment battery

Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology -


Barwick, F. H. and P. A. Arnett.



Objective: In the assessment of sport-related concussion among college athletes, return to play decisions are often made by comparing neuropsychological test performance at baseline with post-concussion test performance. Yet little is known about how college athletes typically perform at baseline. The current study evaluated freshman college athlete performance on a neuropsychological test battery commonly used in the assessment of sport-related concussion. Method: Male and female freshman college athletes (n = 444, 75% male, 77% Caucasian) completed a battery of neuropsychological tests, including both computerized (ImPACT) and pencil-and-paper measures, commonly used in the assessment of sport-related concussion. Results: Average Full Scale IQ, as estimated by the WTAR, was 101 (<0.5% below 85). Less than half of the sample (47%) performed without impairment on all tests. Of the remaining 53% of the sample, 31% performed in the impaired range (1.5 standard deviations below the group mean) on at least 1 test. An additional 11% showed impairment on 2 tests, and another 11% showed impairment on 3 or more tests. There were no differences between the computerized and pencil-and-paper test batteries on percentage of athletes showing impaired performance. Conclusions: Among college athletes, baseline performance on a concussion assessment battery is crucial to return to play decisions. Rates of impairment at baseline may importantly influence such decisions. Future research is needed to identify and control for factors, both demographic and performance-related, that might affect neuropsychological test performance among college athletes at baseline. Elucidating these factors should result in more accurate assessment in collegiate concussion programs.

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