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No Seasonal Changes in Cognitive Functioning Among High School Football Athletes: Implementation of a Novel Electrophysiological Measure and Standard Clinical Measures

Broglio, Steven, P., PhD, ATC*; Williams, Richelle, PhD, ATC; Rettmann, Ashley, CCRP; Moore, Brandon, MS; Eckner, James, T., MD, MS§; Meehan, Sean, PhD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: March 2018 - Volume 28 - Issue 2 - p 130–138
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000420
Original Research

Objective: To evaluate neuroelectric and cognitive function relative to a season of football participation. Cognitive and neuroelectric function declines are hypothesized to be present in football athletes.

Design: Observational.

Setting: Athletic fields and research laboratory.

Patients (or Participants): Seventy-seven high school athletes (15.9 + 0.9 years, 178.6 + 7.2 cm, 74.4 + 14.7 kg, and 0.8 + 0.8 self-reported concussions) participating in football (n = 46) and noncontact sports (n = 31).

Interventions (or Assessment of Risk Factors): All athletes completed preseason, midseason, and postseason assessments of cognitive and neuroelectric function, self-reported symptoms, and quality of life. All athletes participated in their respective sports without intervention, while head impact exposure in football athletes was tracked using the Head Impact Telemetry System.

Main Outcome Measures: Cognitive performance was based on Cogstate computerized cognitive assessment tool processing speed, attention, learning, working memory speed, and working memory accuracy scores. ElMindA brain network activation amplitude, synchronization, timing and connectivity brain network activation scores demarcated neuroelectric performance. Quality of life was assessed on the Health Behavior Inventory and Satisfaction with Life Scale and symptoms on the SCAT3 inventory.

Results: Football and control sport athletes did not show declines in cognitive or neuroelectric function, quality-of-life measures, or symptom reports across a season of sport participation.

Conclusions: These findings refute the notion that routine football participation places athletes at risk for acute cognitive declines. The lack of impairment may be associated with no association with head impacts and cognitive function, increased physical activity offsetting any declines, and/or test sensitivity. How these findings are associated with long-term cognitive function is unknown.

From the *NeuroTrauma Research Laboratory, University of Michigan Injury Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI;

NeuroTrauma Research Laboratory, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI;

Michigan NeuroSport, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI;

§Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Michigan NeuroSport, University of Michigan; and

Human Sensorimotor Laboratory, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Corresponding Author: Steven P. Broglio, PhD, ATC, NeuroTrauma Research Laboratory, 401 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (

This investigation was funded by the National Institutes of Health: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (1R15NS081691-01) and BNA calculations were provided by ElmindA, LTD.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received August 30, 2016

Accepted January 10, 2017

Copyright © 2018 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.