Seasonal Changes in Functional Fitness and Neurocognitive Assessments in Youth Ice Hockey Players

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Deficits in balance and strength combined with differing rates of sensory and motor neural development may increase risk of sports related injury in youth. This study evaluated changes in functional fitness and concussion status over the course of a competitive season in youth ice-hockey players, and examined the relationship between these variables and injury occurrence. Thirty-six participants (8.9 ± 1.1 years) completed pre and post-season assessments including anthropometric measurements, the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), Lower Quarter Y-Balance Test (YBT-LQ), and a computerized neurocognitive assessment (ImPACT). Paired samples t-tests were used to compare pre and post-season data. Independent samples t-tests were used to compare FMS, YBT-LQ, and ImPACT scores between injured and uninjured participants at baseline. The mean composite score of the FMS was not statistically different between pre (15.1 ± 1.8) and post-season (15.6 ± 2.3, p<0.16). The YBT-LQ composite score showed a decrease in reach distance scores between pre (86.10 ± 6.00) and post-season (83.20 ± 5.40, p<0.001). Neurocognitive assessment scores improved in both the injured and uninjured participants. There were no significant relationships between FMS scores, YBT-LQ, and injury incidence. Results from our study provide insight into changes in functional fitness levels and neurocognitive scores over the course of a season in youth ice-hockey players. These findings provide insight into expected changes over the course of a season, and provide context for injury risk monitoring by coaches.

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