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J Sports Sci. 2017 Feb;35(3):231-240. Epub 2016 Mar 21.

Executive function deficits in team sport athletes with a history of concussion revealed by a visual-auditory dual task paradigm.

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a Department of Kinesiology , University of Waterloo , Waterloo , Canada.


The purpose of this study was to examine executive functions in team sport athletes with and without a history of concussion. Executive functions comprise many cognitive processes including, working memory, attention and multi-tasking. Past research has shown that concussions cause difficulties in vestibular-visual and vestibular-auditory dual-tasking, however, visual-auditory tasks have been examined rarely. Twenty-nine intercollegiate varsity ice hockey athletes (age = 19.13, SD = 1.56; 15 females) performed an experimental dual-task paradigm that required simultaneously processing visual and auditory information. A brief interview, event description and self-report questionnaires were used to assign participants to each group (concussion, no-concussion). Eighteen athletes had a history of concussion and 11 had no concussion history. The two tests involved visuospatial working memory (i.e., Corsi block test) and auditory tone discrimination. Participants completed both tasks individually, then simultaneously. Two outcome variables were measured, Corsi block memory span and auditory tone discrimination accuracy. No differences were shown when each task was performed alone; however, athletes with a history of concussion had a significantly worse performance on the tone discrimination task in the dual-task condition. In conclusion, long-term deficits in executive functions were associated with a prior history of concussion when cognitive resources were stressed. Evaluations of executive functions and divided attention appear to be helpful in discriminating participants with and without a history concussion.


Concussions; athletes; dividing attention; mild traumatic brain injury

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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