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collegiate football brain function study news

May 8, 2012

A study performed by researchers at Saint Francis University identified that collegiate football players had changes in brain function and balance deficits 48 hours after a game.

A study performed by researchers at Saint Francis University identified that collegiate football players had changes in brain function and balance deficits 48 hours after a game.

“One of the main findings this study identified is that there were impairments in balance and cognitive function when performing clinical tests on individuals who were not clinically diagnosed with concussion,” said Ivan Mulligan, who is an associate professor of physical therapy and faculty coordinator of Athlete Health and Wellness at the DiSepio Institute for Rural Health and Wellness.

”Our study was unique in that it focused on prevalence of possible symptoms of concussion in athletes who had not reported any symptoms to medical personnel” said Mark Boland, director of physical therapy at the DiSepio Institute.

The findings are detailed in a research paper that is available ahead of print online and will be published later this year in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy.

The research examined 45 Division IA collegiate football players 48 hours after the final game of the season. Preseason baseline scores using three clinical tests commonly used for the management of concussion were used. These included: Balance Error Scoring System (BESS), Post Concussion Symptom Score, and the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT). The results indicated that 32 of the 45 (71%)of the athletes tested had one score that indicated a deficit. Nineteen of the 45 (42%) athletes test had multiple deficits.

Most research in this area uses these clinical tests when a concussion is suspected. The research performed at Saint Francis University examined athletes who were not diagnosed with a concussion. They were surprised to find the balance and cognitive impairments were present in players who hadn’t been diagnosed with a concussion. “A large portion of the players who were included in the study showed deficits,” Mulligan said.

“These impairments were not called concussion because the athlete did not seek medical treatment. However, the results indicate impairments may be present even days after an event.” Boland added, “There is the possibility that these symptoms may be a cumulative result of the football season rather than one single event. More research is definitely needed in this area.”

The findings of this study seem to support the growing evidence that suggests football players not diagnosed with concussion may still demonstrate clinical impairments in cognition and balance.