After the season started, a number of the tested athletes ended up sustaining noncontact ACL injuries. These athletes were identified, and 80 of them were matched up to a control group of 80 noninjured athletes according to height, weight, age, gender, sport, position and years of experience at the college level.
Male and female athletes in 10 intercollegiate sports were represented, including football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, field hockey, gymnastics, wrestling, fencing and softball.
Then the preseason test results from the two groups of athletes were compared.
In analyzing the data, the scientists found that the athletes who ended up with noncontact ACL injuries demonstrated significantly slower reaction time and processing speed and performed worse on visual and verbal memory tests when compared to the control group.
These results suggest that slower processing speed and reaction time, as well as lower visual and verbal memory performance may predispose certain individuals to errors in coordination during physical activity that can lead to injury, Swanik said.
But can we do anything to improve our brain function and protect ourselves from injury"
This study means that there may be an alternative application for neurocognitive testing in the area of injury prevention, Swanik noted. It's hard to say at this point how much we can alter these characteristics with training, but certainly the brain has great potential for learning and adaptation. Controlling stress and anxiety must be considered, as both cause changes in muscle tone and concentration and the narrowing of our attentional field, he said.