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Original Research Attentional Processes of High-Skilled Soccer Players With Congenital Hemiparesis: Differences Related to the Side of the Hemispheric Lesion

We investigated attentional processes that support the performance of high-skilled soccer players with hemiparetic cerebral palsy. Participants (N = 10) dribbled a slalom course as quickly and accurately as possible under two attentional-focus manipulation conditions. In the task-relevant focus condition, they attended to the foot that was in contact with the ball, whereas in the task-irrelevant focus condition, they monitored a series of words played on a tape. The time taken to complete the slalom course was registered. Performances of individuals with left and right hemiparesis were compared to explore differential effects of hemispheric lesion. The high-skilled players with congenital hemiparesis showed similar attentional-focus effects as those previously reported in the literature for high-skilled players without neurological disorders (Beilock et al., 2002; Ford et al., 2005). Task-relevant focus increased dribbling time, whereas a task-irrelevant focus did not result in a significant change in dribbling time. These findings generalized to each of the five participants with left hemiparesis (i.e., damage to the right hemisphere). By contrast, the effects of a task-relevant focus were less consistent for participants with right hemiparesis (i.e., left-hemisphere damage). This corroborates suggestions that the reinvestment of procedural knowledge is a left-lateralized function. The implications for the training of individuals with congenital brain damage are discussed.

Authors: Bert Steenbergen, John van der Kamp

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