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Eric D. Merritt, Cathleen N. Brown, Robin M. Queen, Kathy J. Simpson, and Julianne D. Schmidt

Context:

Dynamic balance deficits exist following a concussion, sometimes years after injury. However, clinicians lack practical tools for assessing dynamic balance.

Objectives:

To determine if there are significant differences in static and dynamic balance performance between individuals with and without a history of concussion.

Design:

Cross sectional.

Setting:

Clinical research laboratory.

Patients or Other Participants:

45 collegiate student-athletes with a history of concussion (23 males, 22 females; age = 20.0 ± 1.4 y; height = 175.8 ± 11.6 cm; mass = 76.4 ± 19.2 kg) and 45 matched controls with no history of concussion (23 males, 22 females; age = 20.0 ± 1.3 y; height = 178.8 ± 13.2 cm; mass = 75.7 ± 18.2 kg).

Interventions:

Participants completed a static (Balance Error Scoring System) and dynamic (Y Balance Test-Lower Quarter) balance assessment.

Main Outcome Measures:

A composite score was calculated from the mean normalized Y Balance Test-Lower Quarter reach distances. Firm, foam, and overall errors were counted during the Balance Error Scoring System by a single reliable rater. One-way ANOVAs were used to compare balance performance between groups. Pearson’s correlations were performed to determine the relationship between the time since the most recent concussion and balance performance. A Bonferonni adjusted a priori α < 0.025 was used for all analyses.

Results:

Static and dynamic balance performance did not significantly differ between groups. No significant correlation was found between the time since the most recent concussion and balance performance.

Conclusions:

Collegiate athletes with a history of concussion do not present with static or dynamic balance deficits when measured using clinical assessments. More research is needed to determine whether the Y Balance Test-Lower Quarter is sensitive to acute balance deficits following concussion.

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Landon B. Lempke, Jeonghoon Oh, Rachel S. Johnson, Julianne D. Schmidt, and Robert C. Lynall

Context: Laboratory-based movement assessments are commonly performed without cognitive stimuli (ie, single-task) despite the simultaneous cognitive processing and movement (ie, dual task) demands required during sport. Cognitive loading may critically alter human movement and be an important consideration for truly assessing functional movement and understanding injury risk in the laboratory, but limited investigations exist. Objective: To comprehensively examine and compare kinematics and kinetics between single- and dual-task functional movement among healthy participants while controlling for sex. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Laboratory. Patients (or Other Participants): Forty-one healthy, physically active participants (49% female; 22.5 ± 2.1 y; 172.5 ± 11.9 cm; 71.0 ± 13.7 kg) enrolled in and completed the study. Intervention(s): All participants completed the functional movement protocol under single- and dual-task (subtracting by 6s or 7s) conditions in a randomized order. Participants jumped forward from a 30-cm tall box and performed (1) maximum vertical jump landings and (2) dominant and (3) nondominant leg, single-leg 45° cuts after landing. Main Outcome Measures: The authors used mixed-model analysis of variances (α = .05) to compare peak hip, knee, and ankle joint angles (degrees) and moments (N·m/BW) in the sagittal and frontal planes, and peak vertical ground reaction force (N/BW) and vertical impulse (Ns/BW) between cognitive conditions and sex. Results: Dual-task resulted in greater peak vertical ground reaction force compared with single-task during jump landing (mean difference = 0.06 N/BW; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.01 to 0.12; P = .025) but less force during dominant leg cutting (mean difference = −0.08 N/BW; 95% CI, −0.14 to −0.02; P = .015). Less hip-flexion torque occurred during dual task than single task (mean difference = −0.09 N/BW; 95% CI, −0.17 to −0.02). No other outcomes were different between single and dual task (P ≥ .053). Conclusions: Slight, but potentially important, kinematic and kinetic differences were observed between single- and dual-task that may have implications for functional movement assessments and injury risk research. More research examining how various cognitive and movement tasks interact to alter functional movement among pathological populations is warranted before clinical implementation.

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Nicole L. Hoffman, Hannes Devos, and Julianne D. Schmidt

Driving performance prior to concussion is not commonly available to help clinicians identify when deficits return to a preinjury status. This case report examines driving performance prior to and following concussion in a 20-year-old male college student. He initially volunteered as a control for a separate driving performance study. He sustained a concussion 18 months later, and was asked to complete the same driving tasks as previous testing once he was asymptomatic. Poor driving simulator performance and subtle cognitive deficits in complex attention and processing speed were evident despite being symptom-free. Our findings may be useful when considering readiness to drive postconcussion.

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Robert C. Lynall, Rachel S. Johnson, Landon B. Lempke, and Julianne D. Schmidt

Context: Reaction time is commonly assessed postconcussion through a computerized neurocognitive battery. Although this measure is sensitive to postconcussion deficits, it is not clear if computerized reaction time reflects the dynamic reaction time necessary to compete effectively and safely during sporting activities. Functional reaction time assessments may be useful postconcussion, but reliability must be determined before clinical implementation. Objective: To determine the test–retest reliability of a functional reaction time assessment battery and to determine if reaction time improved between sessions. Design: Cohort. Setting: Laboratory. Participants: Forty-one participants (21 men and 20 women) completed 2 time points. Participants, on average, were 22.5 (2.1) years old, 72.5 (11.9) cm tall, had a mass of 71.0 (13.7) kg, and were mostly right leg and hand dominant (92.7%). Interventions: Participants completed 2 clinical reaction time tests (computerized Stroop and drop stick) and 5 functional reaction time tests (gait, jump landing, single-leg hop, anticipated cut, and unanticipated cut) across 2 sessions. Drop stick and functional reaction time assessments were performed in single (motor task only) and dual task (motor task with cognitive task). Main Outcome Measures: Reaction time (in seconds) was calculated during all assessments. Test–retest reliability was determined using 2-way mixed-effects intraclass correlation coefficients (3, k). Paired samples t tests compared mean reaction time between sessions. Results: Test–retest reliability was moderate to excellent for all reaction time outcomes (intraclass correlation coefficients [3, k] range = .766–.925). Several statistically significant between-session mean differences were observed, but effect sizes were negligible to small (d range = 0.05–0.44). Conclusions: The functional reaction time assessment battery displayed similar reliability to the standard computerized reaction time assessment battery and may provide important postinjury information, but more research is needed to determine clinical utility.

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J.D. DeFreese, Michael J. Baum, Julianne D. Schmidt, Benjamin M. Goerger, Nikki Barczak, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, and Jason P. Mihalik

Context: Concussion baseline testing helps injury evaluation by allowing postinjury comparisons to preinjury measures. To facilitate best practice, common neurocognitive, balance, and symptom report metrics used in concussion baseline testing merit examination relative to participant life stressors. Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine if life stressors are associated with college athlete neurocognitive function, postural control, and symptom scores at preseason baseline assessment. Design: All study variables were collected in a single laboratory session where athletes completed valid and reliable psychometrics as well as a computerized neurocognitive and balance assessments. Setting: Sports medicine research center on an American university campus. Participants: A convenience sample of 123 college student-athletes: 47 females (age = 18.9 [4.3] y) and 76 males (age = 19.4 [1.6] y). Main Outcome Measures: Participants were categorized into low, moderate, or high life stressors groups using scores from the Social Readjustment Rating Scale-Revised. Dependent variables included outcomes from the CNS Vitals Signs test, the Sensory Organization Test, and the graded symptom checklist indexing neurocognition, balance, and symptom severity, respectfully. Results: One-way analysis of variance revealed that the moderate life stressors group performed significantly worse than the low life stressors group on the baseline verbal memory domain of the CNS Vital Signs (F 2,119 = 3.28; P = .04) only. Conclusion: In the current college athlete sample, few baseline concussion assessment variables were found to be significantly associated with life stressors. Considering the clinical significance of these variables, psychological life stressors may not be a confounding factor in concussion evaluation.