Mild head injury and speed of information processing: a prospective study of professional rugby league players

J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 1997 Apr;19(2):275-89. doi: 10.1080/01688639708403857.


The sensitivity of several short tests of speed of information processing to the effects of mild head injury in rugby league football was investigated. The measures used were the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, the Digit Symbol Substitution Test, and the Speed of Comprehension Test. Two studies were conducted, the first to examine the effect of practice, the second to determine sensitivity to cognitive impairment immediately following injury. The first study established alternate form equivalence and demonstrated that performance on the Speed of Comprehension and Digit Symbol Substitution tests improved with practice, whereas the Symbol Digit Modalities test remained stable. A second study of 10 players who subsequently sustained mild head injuries showed that measures of speed of information processing were sensitive to impairment in the postacute phase, whereas an untimed task of word recognition (Spot-the-Word) was not. Speed of Comprehension was more sensitive to postinjury impairment than either the Digit Symbol Substitution or Symbol Digit Modalities tests. A repeated baseline assessment before injury using the higher score to reflect a player's potential, allowed measurement of impaired performance on sensitive tests.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / psychology*
  • Brain Concussion / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / psychology*
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Practice, Psychological
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology