Tracking developmental trajectories on neurocognitive testing in young athletes ages 5–12

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ObjectiveDespite increased attention to sports-related concussion, there is a lack of research on younger athletes. The purpose of this study was to establish developmental trajectories on neurocognitive testing in younger athletes ages 5 to 12.DesignPre-Test Only Design.SettingMulti-site study from numerous locations in the Eastern USA and Canada.ParticipantsA total of 788 youth athletes, 73% male, assigned to groups on the basis of age: Ages 5–6 (N=128), Ages 7–8 (N=282), Ages 9–10 (N=284), Ages 11–12 (N=94).InterventionAn iPad-based Paediatric version of the ImPACT test was administered individually to participants in a quiet office setting.Outcome measuresAccuracy scores were documented on: Word List Learning (Immediate, Delayed, Recognition); and accuracy and timing scores on Design Rotation, Choice Reaction Time, Visual Sequencing and Visual Memory.Main resultsOne-way ANOVAs with Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons, and Scheffé post-hoc comparisons were conducted between age groups on the dependent measures. All measures showed statistically significant changes (p< 0.001) across the developmental age groups, with better performance in older participants and lower performance in younger participants.ConclusionsYouth athletes between the ages of 5 and 12 are underrepresented with respect to age-appropriate assessment measures, and these results document the need for developmentally- and age-appropriate measures and normative data, in order to capture neurocognitive change across developmental stages.Competing interestsDr. Schatz serves on the ImPACT Scientific Advisory Board.None.

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