Practice effects reveal visuomotor vulnerability in school and university rugby players

Arch Clin Neuropsychol -


Shuttleworth-Edwards, A. B., S. E. Radloff, V. J. Whitefield-Alexander, I. P. Smith and M. Horsman.



This article reports on three pre- versus post-season prospective studies in which male university and high school contact sport players predominantly of Rugby Union (hereafter rugby) were compared with age, education, and IQ equivalent non-contact sport controls on the ImPACT (Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test. All analyses revealed a relative absence of practice effects on the Visual Motor Speed (VMS) composite for contact sport groups compared with controls. The VMS data for rugby players from each study were pooled and subjected to additional analysis (Rugby, n = 145; Controls, n = 106). Controls revealed significant improvement over the season (p < .001), whereas no learning effect was in evidence for rugby players whose performance remained the same (interaction effect, p = .028). It is apparent that practice effects have diagnostic potential in this context, implicating vulnerability on speeded visuomotor processing in association with participation in rugby. Pointers for further research and concussion management in the individual case are explored.

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