Cognition and Academic Performance of Division II Football Players During Noncompetitive and Competitive Seasons
- Repetitive head impacts (RHIs) are multiple sub-concussive forces that may result from either a direct or indirect impact to the head or body over a period of time that result with no presence of symptoms immediately following the mechanism.
- Football players are at an increased risk of repeated head injuries.
- Athletes who have experienced RHIs are hypothesized to have increased negative effects on their academic tolerance, mental health, and cognition compared to their peers.
- The purpose of this study is to compare the cognition, mental health, and academic tolerance of Division II football players during a non-competitive (2020) and competitive (2021) season.
- 30 Division II football players from Concordia University, St. Paul with a mean age of 20.5 +/- 1.22 years and a range of 19 - 23.
Tests and Measures:
- Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT) for working memory
- Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)
- Demographic survey
- Personal interview
- Qualitative interviews were recorded, transcribed and de-identified then coded and analyzed on NVIVO-12
- PASAT and CES-D data were both analyzed on SPSS-28, using a Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test
- Effortful Mental Activity: Cognitive exertion associated with prolonged academic demand.
- Attention: The ability to sustain focus on a given task.
- Sensitivity to Stimuli: Increased responsiveness or vulnerability to sensory input.
- Headaches: A painful sensation localized to the head region.
- Slow Processing: Increased time required to interpret, process, and respond to information or stimuli.
- Fatigue: Physical or mental exhaustion due to internal or external sources.
- Memory: The ability to recall past events or facts learned previously.
- Sleep Difficulty: Inconsistent or frequently interrupted sleeping habits.
- While group cognition scores increased between years, some participants consistently scored below the age and education-based normative mean score.
- Players continue to complain of cognitive changes and worsening depressive symptoms that are consistent with what is expected from an individual suffering from a concussion though players were not actively concussed at the time of measurement.
- There is a potential for cognition to heal or improve as evidenced by the improvement in group cognitive scores, but the long-term effects are still largely unknown.
- There may be a neuroprotective effect of exercise, as well as a high learning effect associated with the PASAT that may have impacted results.
- Depressive symptoms worsened over time which should warrant further study.
- The potential for academic struggles from RHI for collegiate football players should not be ruled out despite quantitative findings.
Lojovich, Jeanne PT, PhD; Dowdal-Osborn, Megan PT, PhD; Butler, T. SPT; Cromwell, K. SPT; Jennings, P. SPT; and Martin, K. SPT, "Cognition and Academic Performance of Division II Football Players During Noncompetitive and Competitive Seasons" (2023). DPT Capstone Posters. 23.