Long-term impact of concussional head injury on cognitive functioning in retired australian rules footballers: a preliminary report of a 25-year follow-up

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Abstract

Objective

the research involved a 25-year neuropsychological follow-up of an Australian Rules football (ARF) cohort studied originally by Maddocks and Saling (1996). The primary aim was to assess whether there is a long-term impact of concussional head injury on cognitive function.

Method

In addition to those tests originally administered (Digit Symbol Substitution Test; Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test; Four Choice Reaction Time), the California Verbal Learning Test, Trail Making Test, Controlled Oral Word Association Test, Victoria Stroop Test, and selected self-report functional health and well-being, and quality of life measures were used. Thirty former Australian Football League players, aged from 44-56 years (Mage=48.8 years), completed both the neuropsychological testing and psychosocial questionnaires.

Main results

Concussional history did not have an influence on cognitive or psychosocial functioning in this sample of retired ARF players. There was no evidence of deterioration in cognitive function across time. Irrespective of concussional history, age appeared to be an important contributor to subjective memory complaints, with older participants reporting greater memory concerns.

Conclusions

In this sample of retired ARF players no evidence of objective cognitive change was found over the time period in which CTE is said to evolve. This research shows, for the first time that long-term cognitive and psychosocial outcome in ARF players may be unrelated to career-long concussional history.

Competing interests

David Maddocks and Paul McCrory are members of the AFL Concussion Working Party.

Competing interests

None.

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