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Neurocognitive Performance of 425 Top-Level Football Players: Sport-specific Norm Values and Implications


Prien, Annika; Junge, Astrid; Brugger, Peter; Straumann, Dominik; Feddermann-Demont, Nina (2019). Neurocognitive Performance of 425 Top-Level Football Players: Sport-specific Norm Values and Implications. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 34(4):575-584.

Abstract

Objective Concussion diagnosis and management in sports largely relies on neurocognitive testing. In the absence of baseline assessment, only norm values of the general population are available for comparison with scores of concussed athletes. To evaluate whether (elite) sport specific norm values are needed, cognitive performance was compared between top-level football players and the general population. Methods Cognitive performance of 425 top-level football players was evaluated using the computerized test battery CNS Vital Signs. Players were split into two age groups (15-19 and 20-29 years) and test results were compared with a norm sample (n = 268) by means of age-standardized scores using Cohen's d effect size statistics. Results The younger age group outperformed the norm sample in all domains, with small to moderate effects on tests of processing speed (d = 0.58, 95% CI = 0.31,0.85), cognitive flexibility (d = 0.27, 95% CI = 0.01,0.53) and psychomotor speed (d = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.69,1.24). In the older age group, no differences were found on four out of six domains; a moderate positive effect was found for psychomotor speed (d = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.54,0.93), a small negative effect for reaction time (d = -0.47, 95% CI = -0.66,-0.28). Relative to the norm, older football players scored lower than younger football players on all test domains. Conclusion Cognitive performance of elite football players may be different from the general population. It is recommended to use football-specific norm scores for comparison with test results of concussed players, and to choose an adequate control group when investigating effects of contact sport on cognition. Studies with older/retired football players are needed to further analyze potential sport-specific age effects.

Abstract

Objective Concussion diagnosis and management in sports largely relies on neurocognitive testing. In the absence of baseline assessment, only norm values of the general population are available for comparison with scores of concussed athletes. To evaluate whether (elite) sport specific norm values are needed, cognitive performance was compared between top-level football players and the general population. Methods Cognitive performance of 425 top-level football players was evaluated using the computerized test battery CNS Vital Signs. Players were split into two age groups (15-19 and 20-29 years) and test results were compared with a norm sample (n = 268) by means of age-standardized scores using Cohen's d effect size statistics. Results The younger age group outperformed the norm sample in all domains, with small to moderate effects on tests of processing speed (d = 0.58, 95% CI = 0.31,0.85), cognitive flexibility (d = 0.27, 95% CI = 0.01,0.53) and psychomotor speed (d = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.69,1.24). In the older age group, no differences were found on four out of six domains; a moderate positive effect was found for psychomotor speed (d = 0.74, 95% CI = 0.54,0.93), a small negative effect for reaction time (d = -0.47, 95% CI = -0.66,-0.28). Relative to the norm, older football players scored lower than younger football players on all test domains. Conclusion Cognitive performance of elite football players may be different from the general population. It is recommended to use football-specific norm scores for comparison with test results of concussed players, and to choose an adequate control group when investigating effects of contact sport on cognition. Studies with older/retired football players are needed to further analyze potential sport-specific age effects.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neurology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Neuroscience Center Zurich
04 Faculty of Medicine > Center for Integrative Human Physiology
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:1 June 2019
Deposited On:24 Oct 2018 16:00
Last Modified:24 Sep 2019 23:49
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0887-6177
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/arclin/acy056
PubMed ID:30165564

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