Turn Characteristics During Gait Differ With and Without a Cognitive Demand Among College Athletes

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Sports often involve complex movement patterns, such as turning. Although cognitive load effects on gait patterns are well known, little is known on how it affects biomechanics of turning gait among athletes. Such information could help evaluate how concussion affects turning gait required for daily living and sports. Objective: To determine the effect of a dual task on biomechanics of turning while walking among college athletes. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: University laboratory. Participants: Fifty-three participants performed 5 trials of a 20-m walk under single- and dual-task conditions at self-selected speed with a 180° turn at 10-m mark. The cognitive load included subtraction, spelling words backward, or reciting the months backward. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures: Turn duration, turning velocity, number of steps, SD of turn duration and velocity, and coefficient of variation of turn duration and velocity. Results: Participants turned significantly slower (155.99 [3.71] cm/s vs 183.52 [4.17] cm/s; P < .001) and took longer time to complete the turn (2.63 [0.05] s vs 2.33 [0.04] s; P < .001) while dual tasking, albeit taking similar number of steps to complete the turn. Participants also showed more variability in turning time under the dual-task condition (SD of turn duration = 0.39 vs 0.31 s; P = .004). Conclusions: Overall, college athletes turned slower and showed more variability during turning gait while performing a concurrent cognitive dual-task turning compared with single-task turning. The slower velocity increased variability may be representative of specific strategy of turning gait while dual tasking, which may be a result of the split attention to perform the cognitive task. The current study provides descriptive values of absolute and variability turning gait parameters for sports medicine personnel to use while they perform their concussion assessments on their college athletes.

Brown, Hall, and Ketcham are with the Department of Exercise Science, Elon University, Elon, NC, USA. Patel is with the Department of Athletics, Elon University, Elon, NC, USA. Buckley is 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. Howell is lead researcher with the Sports Medicine Center, Orthopedics Institute Children’s Hospital Colorado, Aurora, CO, USA.

Vallabhajosula is with the Department of Physical Therapy Education, Elon University, Elon, NC, USA. Vallabhajosula (svallabhajosula@elon.edu) is corresponding author.
Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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