Methods of post-concussion diagnosis are still under debate with regard to sensitivity, objectivity, reliability, and costs. Spontaneous displays of nonverbal hand movement behavior during interaction are indicative of psychopathology and are relatively simple to record and analyze. Increased continuous (irregular) body-focused hand movement activity in particular indicates psychopathologies that overlap in symptomatology with those of sport-related concussions (SRCs). We therefore hypothesized that the duration of "irregular," "on body," and "act on each other" hand movements is increased in athletes with SRC who suffer from post-concussion symptoms. Three matched groups of 40 athletes were investigated: 14 symptomatic athletes with a concussion, 14 asymptomatic athletes with a concussion, and 12 non-concussed athletes. Using the Neuropsychological Gesture (NEUROGES)-Elan analysis system, four certified raters analyzed all nonverbal hand movements that were displayed during a videotaped standardized anamnesis about concussion history, incidence, course of action, and post-concussion symptoms. The duration of irregular Structure units among symptomatic athletes was significantly longer compared with asymptomatic athletes. Irregular, on body, and act on each other hand movement durations correlated with post-concussion symptoms. Whereas the duration of irregular units significantly predicted the post-concussion symptom score, working memory performances showed only marginal effects. Increased duration of irregular hand movement units indicates post-concussion symptoms in athletes with SRC. Because the recording of spontaneous displays of nonverbal hand movement behavior is relatively simple and cost efficient, we suggest using the neuropsychological analysis of hand movement behavior as a future diagnostic parameter of concussion management protocols.
Keywords: hand movement behavior; hand movement duration; mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI); nonverbal behavior; sport-related concussions.