Influence of Special Education, ADHD, Autism, and Learning Disorders on ImPACT Validity Scores in High School Athletes

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2021 Jan;

Maietta, J. E., Barchard, K. A., Kuwabara, H. C., Donohue, B. D., Ross, S. R., Kinsora, T. F., & Allen, D. N..



OBJECTIVE: The Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) is commonly used to assist with post-concussion return-to-play decisions for athletes. Additional investigation is needed to determine whether embedded indicators used to determine the validity of scores are influenced by the presence of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs). METHOD: This study examined standard and novel ImPACT validity indicators in a large sample of high school athletes (n = 33,772) with or without self-reported ND. RESULTS: Overall, 7.1% of athletes’ baselines were judged invalid based on standard ImPACT validity criteria. When analyzed by group (healthy, ND), there were significantly more invalid ImPACT baselines for athletes with an ND diagnosis or special education history (between 9.7% and 54.3% for standard and novel embedded validity criteria) when compared to athletes without NDs. ND history was a significant predictor of invalid baseline performance above and beyond other demographic characteristics (i.e., age, sex, and sport), although it accounted for only a small percentage of variance. Multivariate base rates are presented stratified for age, sex, and ND. CONCLUSIONS: These data provide evidence of higher than normal rates of invalid baselines in athletes who report ND (based on both the standard and novel embedded validity indicators). Although ND accounted for a small percentage of variance in the prediction of invalid performance, negative consequences (e.g., extended time out of sports) of incorrect decision-making should be considered for those with neurodevelopmental conditions. Also, reasons for the overall increase noted here, such as decreased motivation, “sandbagging”, or disability-related cognitive deficit, require additional investigation.

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