Sensory Symptoms and Neuropsychological Test Performance in Sports-Related Concussion

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2013 Aug;


Rabinowitz, A., G. Vargas and P. Arnett.



Objective: Sensory disturbance, a common concussion symptom, has known effects on neuropsychological performance. The present study sought to examine the influence of sensory symptoms on cognitive performance in concussed college athletes. It was hypothesized that self-reported sensory and cognitive symptoms would predict performance on tests employing sensory stimuli. Participants and Methods: 92 athletes were evaluated following concussive injury with a post-concussion symptoms scale (PCSS) and neuropsychological (NP) test battery, including ImPACT. Athletes were grouped according to: presence (N=25) or absence (N=67) of sensory symptoms (“sensitivity to light” or “sensitivity to noise”) and presence (N=19) or absence (N=73) of cognitive symptoms (“difficulty remembering things” or “difficulty concentrating”). Groups were compared on NP tests employing sensory stimuli. Results: The sensory symptoms (SS) and cognitive symptoms (CS) groups had higher PCSS scores than non-sensory symptoms (NSS) and non-cognitive symptoms (NCS) groups, suggesting greater overall symptom severity in these athletes (t=9.2, p<0.001 & t=6.4, p<0.001 respectively). PCSS total score was controlled for in subsequent analyses. MANOVA revealed a trend towards poorer performance on NP tests for SS compared with NSS athletes (F=2.0, p=0.06). Correlations between severity of sensory symptoms and NP test performance showed a significant correlation between SDMT performance and severity of visual symptoms (r=0.41, p<0.05). A separate MANOVA compared CS and NCS athletes, and revealed no effect of group on NP test performance (F=1.0, p=0.41). Conclusions: These results provide support for the hypothesis that post-concussion sensory symptoms interfere with cognitive test performance. Self-reported cognitive symptoms were not associated with NP performance, suggesting that some concussion related cognitive deficits are mediated by sensory disturbance.

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