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Effects of repetitive subconcussive head trauma on the neuropsychological test performance of high school athletes: A comparison of high, moderate, and low contact sports

Appl Neuropsychol Child. 2018 Feb;

8(3):223-230.

Tsushima, W. T. A., H. J.; Siu, A. M.; Yoshinaga, K.; Choi, S. Y.; Murata, N. M..

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Abstract:

The aim of this study was to examine the neuropsychological test results of non-concussed high school athletes playing at three different levels of contact sports. Based on the concussion risk data of 12 different sports, a High Contact group (n=2819; wrestling/martial arts, cheerleading, track and field, football), a Moderate Contact group (n=2323; softball, basketball, soccer), and a Low Contact group (n=1580; baseball, volleyball, water polo, tennis, cross-country) were formed and compared in terms of their scores on the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). The results revealed that the High Contact group obtained small but statistically poorer performances in ImPACT Visual Memory, Visual Motor Speed, Impulse Control, and Total Symptom scores compared to the Moderate and Low Contact groups. The High Contact group also had poorer Reaction Time scores compared to the Low Contact group. No differences between the Moderate and Low Contact groups were noted. The findings, along with prior similar results, tentatively raise concerns that participant in high contact sports, exposed to repetitive subconcussive head trauma, may be at greater risk for lowered neuropsychological functioning and increased symptoms, compared to other high school athletes. In view of the preliminary nature of this investigation, more research into the effects of frequent head impacts in high school sports is strongly recommended.

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