Does Game Participation Impact Cognition and Symptoms in Elite Football Players?

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Abstract

Objective:

To measure neurocognitive functioning in college and professional football players after game participation.

Study Design:

Retrospective, cross-sectional cohort design.

Participants:

Ninety-four male university and professional football players.

Intervention:

All participants completed Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) testing at baseline, and either at postconcussion (group 1) or postgame (group 2) participation.

Main Outcome Measures:

Results from the 5 ImPACT composite scores (Verbal Memory, Visual Memory, Visual Motor Speed, Reaction Time and Impulse Control) and Total Symptom Score.

Results:

Repeated-measures analysis of variance demonstrated a significant main effect for time (improvements) in 3 of 5 domains for the postconcussion group, but no improvements in the postgame group. The postconcussion group presented with significantly improved results on 4 of 5 ImPACT domains compared with the postgame group at the follow-up time interval.

Conclusions:

Participation in a football game with potential cumulative head contacts did not yield increased symptoms or cognitive impairment. However, the absence of improvement in cognitive functioning in noninjured football players, which was found in those players who were returned to play after an injury, may suggest that there is a measureable impact as a result of playing football.

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