Cognitive effects of one season of head impacts in a cohort of collegiate contact sport athletes

T. W. McAllister, L. A. Flashman, A. Maerlender, R. M. Greenwald, J. G. Beckwith, T. D. Tosteson, J. J. Crisco, P. G. Brolinson, S. M. Duma, A. C. Duhaime, M. R. Grove, J. H. Turco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

139 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: To determine whether exposure to repetitive head impacts over a single season negatively affects cognitive performance in collegiate contact sport athletes. Methods: This is a prospective cohort study at 3 Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association athletic programs. Participants were 214 Division I college varsity football and ice hockey players who wore instrumented helmets that recorded the acceleration-time history of the head following impact, and 45 noncontact sport athletes. All athletes were assessed prior to and shortly after the season with a cognitive screening battery (ImPACT) and a subgroup of athletes also were assessed with 7 measures from a neuropsychological test battery. Results: Few cognitive differences were found between the athlete groups at the preseason or postseason assessments. However, a higher percentage of the contact sport athletes performed more poorly than predicted postseason on a measure of new learning (California Verbal Learning Test) compared to the noncontact athletes (24% vs 3.6%; p < 0.006). On 2 postseason cognitive measures (ImPACT Reaction Time and Trails 4/B), poorer performance was significantly associated with higher scores on several head impact exposure metrics. Conclusion: Repetitive head impacts over the course of a single season may negatively impact learning in some collegiate athletes. Further work is needed to assess whether such effects are short term or persistent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1777-1784
Number of pages8
JournalNeurology
Volume78
Issue number22
DOIs
StatePublished - May 29 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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    McAllister, T. W., Flashman, L. A., Maerlender, A., Greenwald, R. M., Beckwith, J. G., Tosteson, T. D., Crisco, J. J., Brolinson, P. G., Duma, S. M., Duhaime, A. C., Grove, M. R., & Turco, J. H. (2012). Cognitive effects of one season of head impacts in a cohort of collegiate contact sport athletes. Neurology, 78(22), 1777-1784. https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182582fe7