Neurocognitive Test Performance and Concussion-Like Symptom Reporting Among Adolescent Athletes With Self-Reported Autism on Preseason Assessments

Arch Clin Neuropsychol - 2023

Cook, N. E., Iverson, I. A., Maxwell, B., Zafonte, R., Berkner, P. D. and Iverson, G. L..



OBJECTIVE: To examine baseline neurocognitive functioning and symptom reporting among adolescents with self-reported autism. METHOD: Participants in this cross-sectional, observational study were 60,751 adolescents who completed preseason testing. There were 425 students (0.7%) who self-reported an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Cognitive functioning was measured by Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing and symptom ratings were obtained from the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale. RESULTS: Groups differed significantly across all neurocognitive composites (p values <.002); effect size magnitudes for most differences were small, though among boys a noteworthy difference on visual memory and among girls differences on verbal memory and visual motor speed composites were noted. Among boys, the ASD group endorsed 21 of the 22 symptoms at a greater rate. Among girls, the ASD group endorsed 11 of the 22 symptoms at a greater rate. Some examples of symptoms that were endorsed at a higher rate among adolescents with self-reported autism were sensitivity to noise (girls: odds ratio, OR = 4.38; boys: OR = 4.99), numbness or tingling (girls: OR = 3.67; boys: OR = 3.25), difficulty remembering (girls: OR = 2.01; boys: OR = 2.49), difficulty concentrating (girls: OR = 1.82; boys: OR = 2.40), sensitivity to light (girls: OR = 1.82; boys: OR = 1.76), sadness (girls: OR = 1.72; boys: OR = 2.56), nervousness (girls: OR = 1.80; boys: OR = 2.27), and feeling more emotional (girls: OR = 1.79; boys: OR = 2.84). CONCLUSION: Students with self-reported autism participating in organized sports likely experience a low degree of functional impairment, on average. If they sustain a concussion, their clinical management should be more intensive to maximize the likelihood of swift and favorable recovery.

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