Influence of Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders on Cognitive and Symptom Profiles: Considerations for Baseline Sport Concussion Assessment

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2021 Mar;

Maietta, J. E., Kuwabara, H. C., Cross, C. L., Flood, S. M., Kinsora, T. F., Ross, S. R., & Allen, D. N..



OBJECTIVE: The presence of neurodevelopmental disorders (ND) such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disorders (LD) have demonstrated effects on Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) performance. No current research has directly examined whether autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has similar effects. The current study compared ImPACT cognitive and symptom profiles in athletes with self-reported ASD to other NDs and healthy controls using case-control matching. METHOD: The current study compared ImPACT baselines of high school athletes with ASD to athletes with other NDs (ADHD, LD, and co-occurring ADHD/LD) and healthy controls on cognitive composites and symptom reporting. Participants included 435 athletes (87 controls, 87 with ASD, 87 with ADHD, 87 with LD, and 87 with ADHD/LD) selected from a larger naturalistic sample. Athletes were matched to the ASD group based on age, sex, and sport using randomized case-matched selection from the larger database. RESULTS: Results revealed that athletes with ASD performed more poorly than healthy controls on the Visual Motor Speed composite. No differences were found for Post-concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS) domain scores. Differences in cognitive and symptom profiles among the athletes with other NDs were also found. CONCLUSIONS: Results elucidate patterns of baseline performance for athletes with ASD, demonstrating that there may not be significant differences between ASD and healthy controls on four of the five ImPACT composites, and no symptom reporting differences. Cognitive and symptom differences found for other NDs should be considered when interpreting baseline performance and for making return-to-play decisions in the absence of baseline assessment.

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