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From the American College of Sports Medicine

Concussions Impair Cognitive Function in College Athletes

Verbal memory was worse in those who had previously suffered a concussion

College-age athletes who had previously suffered a concussion performed more poorly on tests for verbal memory than those who had not, according to a new study presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine® in June 2011.Brain activity

Verbal memory was worse in those who had previously suffered a concussion compared with those who had not, according to Eric E. Hall, Ph.D., FACSM, principle investigator for the study.

"This study corroborates the effect of concussion on [cognitive] functioning in student-athletes," said Robert Gardner, lead researcher for the study and a student at Elon University in North Carolina.

Cognitive function refers to those functions of the brain that involve thinking, concentrating, learning, and reasoning.

The findings were based on the student-athletes' performance using a popular computerized neuropsychological test (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment Testing (ImPACTTM), as well as EEG testing while performing two other tests. 

The first, the Eriksen Flanker Task, is a visual experiment during which the participant is expected to respond to a centered and directed item surrounded or flanked by distracting symbols like arrows or letters. If they all point to the same direction (congruent), the subject will have a short reaction time and performance is more exact; if the flanking arrows point in a different direction (incongruent), a slower reaction time and less accurate performance is expected. 

The second is an auditory oddball task in which stimuli are presented in a continuous stream and participants must detect the presence of an oddball stimulus that occurs infrequently relative to all other stimuli, and has distinct characteristics (e.g., a different tone among auditory stimuli).

"In looking at 100 athletes from football, men's soccer and women's soccer, we found multiple signs of decreased cognitive processing" on these tests, said Gardner.

More study needed

More than 20 states have enacted laws since 2009 governing concussion in youth sports, focusing primarily on athletes of high school age and younger. Based on the Zackery Lystedt Law passed in Washington State, the laws typically call for education of athletes, parents and coaches about the dangers of concussion; removal from play or practice of a youth athlete who is suspected of having suffered a concussion; and return to play only after medical clearance.

Student-athletes, specifically in sports such as soccer and football, have a high risk of concussions because of the high amount of contact.

Dr. Hall said that the results of the study, while not surprising, suggest the need for further research on the effects of concussion on cognitive function, particularly in the developing brains of children and adolescents.


Source: American College of Sports Medicine

Posted June 5, 2011

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