Töpper, Max, Gorny, F, Schulz, P, Horstmann, G, Beblo, Thomas, & Driessen, M. (2022). Subconcussive Head Blows in American Football: An underestimated Risk? Journal of Neurology and Neurological Disorders, 8(1), 1–10.
Objective: Concussions and subconcussive head blows (SHB) appear to affect cerebral health in American football athletes. However, it is still unclear whether SHBs affect cognitive and neuropsychiatric outcomes during the course of a single season.
Method: In a longitudinal pilot study, we examined 32 male German amateur American football athletes (M = 23.97 +/- 2.95). Effects of concussion history and playing position on differences between pre- and postseason cognitive and neuropsychiatric composite scores were analyzed by repeated measures ANOVAs. The relationships between the numbers of seasons played in the career and cognitive/neuropsychiatric composite scores were analyzed using partial correlations.
Results: Results did not reveal cognitive or neuropsychiatric longitudinal changes over the course of one season. However, athletes with a concussion in the past showed higher pre- and postseason neuropsychiatric composite scores compared to athletes without concussion in the past. Moreover, the number of seasons inversely correlated with the cognitive composite score (controlled for documented concussions in the past).
Conclusion: One American football season might be too short to detect SHB-related cognitive or neuropsychiatric changes manifesting over multiple years. However, concussion history appears to be related to neuropsychiatric burden, whereas the length of the career may be associated with attentional dysfunctions.
Keywords: Traumatic Brain Injury; Concussion; Cognition; Symptom Severity; Playing Position; Season