Relationship between concussion history and neurocognitive test performance in National Football League draft picks

Am J Sports Med. 2014 Apr;42(4):934-9. doi: 10.1177/0363546513518742. Epub 2014 Feb 4.


Background: There are limited empirical data available regarding the relationship between concussion history and neurocognitive functioning in active National Football League (NFL) players in general and NFL draft picks in particular. Potential NFL draft picks undergo 2 neurocognitive tests at the National Invitational Camp (Scouting Combine) every year: the Wonderlic and, since 2011, the Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). After conclusion of the combine and before the draft, NFL teams invite potential draft picks to their headquarters for individual visits where further assessment may occur.

Purpose: To examine the relationship between concussion history and neurocognitive performance (ImPACT and Wonderlic) in a sample of elite NFL draft picks.

Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods: Over 7 years, 226 potential draft picks were invited to visit a specific NFL team's headquarters after the combine. The athletes were divided into 3 groups based on self-reported concussion history: no prior concussions, 1 prior concussion, and 2 or more prior concussions. Neurocognitive measures of interest included Wonderlic scores (provided by the NFL team) and ImPACT composite scores (administered either at the combine or during a visit to the team headquarters). The relationship between concussion history and neurocognitive scores was assessed, as were the relationships among the 2 neurocognitive tests.

Results: Concussion history had no relationship to neurocognitive performance on either the Wonderlic or ImPACT.

Conclusion: Concussion history did not affect performance on either neurocognitive test, suggesting that for this cohort, a history of concussion may not have adverse effects on neurocognitive functioning as measured by these 2 tests. This study reveals no correlation between concussion history and neurocognitive test scores (ImPACT, Wonderlic) in soon-to-be active NFL athletes.

Keywords: ImPACT; National Football League; Wonderlic; concussion; neurocognitive testing.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult