A Comparison of Traditional and Computerized Neuropsychological Assessment of Athletes Prior to and Following Cerebral Concussion.

Principle Investigator: Ruben J. Echemendia, Ph.D.

Institution: Pennsylvania State University, Department of Psychology

Title: A Comparison of Traditional and Computerized Neuropsychological Assessment of Athletes Prior to and Following Cerebral Concussion

Abstract: Cerebral concussions frequently occur in sports and can have serious, at times catastrophic outcomes to athletes at all levels of competition. Approximately 300,000 sport-related concussions occur annually. High incidence rates have been reported in football, soccer, wrestling, and lacrosse, among others. Concussions account for 30% of all injuries in ice hockey, and in some sports women have significantly higher injury rates than men. The goal of this proposal is to continue data collection and extend the Penn State Cerebral Concussion Project (funded by NOCSAE during the past two years). A computerized neuropsychological (NP) assessment battery (ImPACT; Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) will be added to allow for a comparison between traditional “paper and pencil” NP tests and those administered by the computer.

The PSU concussion program is a unique, comprehensive multi-sport prospective NP assessment program. Initial data from this project have begun to demonstrate the effectiveness of NP assessment in detecting neurocognitive changes following cerebral concussion. The data also have underscored the inadequacy of reliance on neurobehavioral symptoms as the sole criteria for return-to-play. However, traditional NP tests are hampered by difficulties such as the need for individualized administration, practice effects, few or no alternate forms, complex administration procedures, the need for adequately trained personnel on site, expense and the possibility of lapses in standardized administration across settings and administrators. Computer programs specifically designed to assess sports-related concussion may prove quite useful in providing an easily administered, reliable and efficient method of assessing concussion. These programs can them be used widely among high schools and colleges with minimal expense. In order for these programs to be useful, their sensitivity and effectiveness in assessing cognitive functioning following concussion must be demonstrated. This proposal seeks to incorporate a newly developed computer-based NP assessment (ImPACT) into the PSU Concussion Program. The effectiveness of ImPACT will be examined independently and in comparison to traditional “paper and pencil” NP assessments in injured and non-injured athletes.

In addition to maintaining the current PSU battery, ImPACT ill be administered to all athletes in football, ice hockey (PSU and Princeton University), men’s/ women’s soccer, men’s/ women’s basketball, men’s/ women’s rugby, and men’s/ women’s lacrosse. All new athletes to these teams will receive BOTH computer and traditional NP assessments at 2 hours, 48 hours, 7 days, and 30 days post-injury. Non-injured controls will be tested at the same time intervals and with the same measures (ImPACT and traditional) as the injured athletes.