Preseason Neurocognitive Testing in Athletes with Academic Problems

J Int Neuropsychol Soc -


Iverson, G. L., M. W. Collins, M. Roberge and M. R. Lovell.



Objective: Baseline preseason neurocognitive testing is recommended for amateur and professional athletes. Then, if an athlete sustains a concussion, it can be determined more precisely when he or she returns to normal neurocognitive functioning. Baseline testing is particularly important if an athlete has a developmental condition, such as ADHD or a learning disability, because these conditions might have an adverse effect on cognitive functioning. However, the effect of learning problems and disabilities on test batteries used in athletics is unknown. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of academic problems on preseason testing in amateur athletes. Participants and Methods: Forty-one student athletes with academic problems (e.g., those who receive special education services or have repeated a grade) were compared to 41 randomly selected controls on ImPACT, a 20-minute computerized neurocognitive test battery. The two groups were compared on the five composite scores using MANOVA followed by univariate ANOVAs. Results: There was a significant multivariate effect [Wilks’ Lambda =.80; F(6, 75)=3.1, p<.01, eta squared=.20]. The ANOVA results revealed significantly worse test scores for students with academic problems on the Verbal Memory (p<.014, Cohen’s d=.55) and Processing Speed (p<.033, d=.48) composites. The groups did not differ on the Visual Memory, Reaction Time, or Impulse Control composites. The students with academic problems also reported significantly more subjective symptoms on the Post-Concussion Scale (p<.006, Cohen’s d=.70). Conclusions: Knowing the pre-injury symptom reporting and neurocognitive test performance of student athletes with academic problems will facilitate the interpretation of post-injury evaluations and return-to-play decision making.

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