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Jeffrey Bennett, Scott Doberstein, Dennis Siemsen, Logan Galezio; Tachistoscope and Visual Working Memory in Sport-related Concussion. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2014;55(13):351.
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It is estimated that between 300,000 and 3.8 million US athletes sustain sports-related concussions each year. Using an iPad tachistoscope application test we developed, concussed collegiate football players were tested on visual working memory within the acute phase of a concussion. This study sought to determine if a measurable decline in visual working memory occurs in acutely concussed football players compared to preseason baseline test scores.
The test consists of 12 flash cards, each shown for approximately 0.60 seconds. The visual stimuli used are known, rote images unique to the subject’s occupation or athletic team. After the flash card is shown, 4 descriptions of the flash card’s image are shown to the subject. The subject has 4 seconds to choose the correct answer using the touch screen. The order of the 12 flash cards and the 4 answer choices are randomized for each test. A prior study assessed the reliability of this iPad app on 58 normal subjects. The test/retest correlation coefficient was 0.72, indicating substantial agreement. 57 returning players for the 2013 UW-La Crosse football team consented to participate in the study. A test was created for 3 sets of player positions: Defense; QB WR; OL, TE, RB. The tests were presented and demonstrated to the team by the PI at a preseason team meeting. Following the meeting, each of the 57 subjects took a baseline test. During the course of practices and 10 games, players suspected of being concussed by coaches or training staff were removed from play. Each of these players was tested with the iPad test on the sideline by a training staff member. For each player suspect of being concussed, an uninjured player of the same position was tested as a normal comparison.
During the course of the 2013 season, 7 concussed and 7 uninjured players were retested. Comparing the baseline and retest scores found no statistical significance for concussed players (p=0.45) and uninjured players (p=0.60). A comparison of change of baseline to retest scores between the concussed and uninjured players was also not statistically significant (p=0.64).
In our small sample size of concussed players, a measurable decline in visual working memory did not occur in acutely concussed football players when tested with a tachistoscope. Continued testing with more subjects is needed to confirm a relationship between concussion and visual working memory.
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