Effects of subconcussive head impacts on cerebral acoustic response, oculomotor function, and balance in high school athletes

Salinas, Alexander A.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Delaware
There is an increasing amount of evidence indicating potentially devastating long-term effects of subconcussive impacts in the absence of clinical symptoms of concussion in high school football players. Purpose: To determine whether subconcussive head impacts produce any immediate cognitive, postural, and physiological changes after athletic participation. Methods: Fifty-nine interscholastic football (FB), soccer (SOC), and track (RUN) athletes provided baseline and post-participation data. Four cerebral acoustic response variables were examined using the Brain Acoustic Monitor (BAM) (Active Signal Technologies, Linthicum Heights, MD). Oculomotor function was assessed via the King-Devick (K-D) test. Balance was evaluated using a computerized version of the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS). Results: Significant changes in left-brain ratio were observed in football players postgame (p = 0.023). Between-group analysis of baseline data for left- and right-brain divergence noted differences as well (FB vs. SOC, p = 0.012, p = 0.008, respectively; FB vs. RUN, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, respectively). There were no significant differences with either oculomotor or balance variables. Conclusions: One game may not provide enough head impact exposure to elicit detectable changes with the utilized instrumentation. Unexpectedly, there were differences observed in football players' baseline BAM scores in the absence of significant differences in baseline and post-participation K-D test and BESS scores across all groups, possibly indicating that prior exposures to subconcussive impacts in this cohort of football players may be present.