Single-Task and Dual-Task Gait Among Collegiate Athletes of Different Sport Classifications: Implications for Concussion Management

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Gait impairments have been documented following sport-related concussion. Whether preexisting gait pattern differences exist among athletes who participate in different sport classifications, however, remains unclear. Dual-task gait examinations probe the simultaneous performance of everyday tasks (ie, walking and thinking), and can quantify gait performance using inertial sensors. The purpose of this study was to compare the single-task and dual-task gait performance of collision/contact and noncontact athletes. A group of collegiate athletes (n = 265) were tested before their season at 3 institutions (mean age= 19.1 ± 1.1 years). All participants stood still (single-task standing) and walked while simultaneously completing a cognitive test (dual-task gait), and completed walking trials without the cognitive test (single-task gait). Spatial-temporal gait parameters were compared between collision/contact and noncontact athletes using MANCOVAs; cognitive task performance was compared using ANCOVAs. No significant single-task or dual-task gait differences were found between collision/contact and noncontact athletes. Noncontact athletes demonstrated higher cognitive task accuracy during single-task standing (P = .001) and dual-task gait conditions (P = .02) than collision/contact athletes. These data demonstrate the utility of a dual-task gait assessment outside of a laboratory and suggest that preinjury cognitive task performance during dual-tasks may differ between athletes of different sport classifications.

Howell is with The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Waltham, MA, USA; the Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopaedics, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; and the Brain Injury Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA. Oldham is with the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA. DiFabio and Buckley are with the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA; and the Interdisciplinary program in Biomechanics and Movement Science, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA. Vallabhajosula is with the Department of Physical Therapy Education, Elon University, Elon, NC, USA. Hall and Ketcham are with the Department of Exercise Science, Elon University, Elon University, Elon, NC, USA. Meehan III is with The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Waltham, MA, USA; the Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopaedics, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; the Brain Injury Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; and the Departments of Pediatrics and Orthopaedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School, MA, USA.

Address author correspondence to David R. Howell at David.Howell2@childrens.harvard.edu.