The relationship between psychological distress and baseline sports-related concussion testing

Clin J Sport Med. 2010 Jul;20(4):272-7. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181e8f8d8.


Objective: This study examined the effect of psychological distress on neurocognitive performance measured during baseline concussion testing.

Design: Archival data were utilized to examine correlations between personality testing and computerized baseline concussion testing. Significantly correlated personality measures were entered into linear regression analyses, predicting baseline concussion testing performance. Suicidal ideation was examined categorically.

Setting: Athletes underwent testing and screening at a university athletic training facility.

Participants: Participants included 47 collegiate football players 17 to 19 years old, the majority of whom were in their first year of college.

Interventions: Participants were administered the Concussion Resolution Index (CRI), an internet-based neurocognitive test designed to monitor and manage both at-risk and concussed athletes. Participants took the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI), a self-administered inventory designed to measure clinical syndromes, treatment considerations, and interpersonal style.

Main outcome measures: Scales and subscales from the PAI were utilized to determine the influence psychological distress had on the CRI indices: simple reaction time, complex reaction time, and processing speed.

Results: Analyses revealed several significant correlations among aspects of somatic concern, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation and CRI performance, each with at least a moderate effect. When entered into a linear regression, the block of combined psychological symptoms accounted for a significant amount of baseline CRI performance, with moderate to large effects (r = 0.23-0.30). When examined categorically, participants with suicidal ideation showed significantly slower simple reaction time and complex reaction time, with a similar trend on processing speed.

Conclusions: Given the possibility of obscured concussion deficits after injury, implications for premature return to play, and the need to target psychological distress outright, these findings heighten the clinical importance of screening for psychological distress during baseline and post-injury concussion evaluations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Inventory
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Young Adult