(HealthDay News) — The number of years of football participation is not associated with neurocognitive function in young athletes, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, held from March 11–15 in New Orleans.

Gregory W. Stewart, MD, from the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, and colleagues retrospectively analyzed prospectively collected data from the preparticipation health screenings of adolescent football athletes (mean age, 15.9 years) in southeast Louisiana. Performance on neuropsychological tasks (digit symbol substitution [DSS], pure reaction time and choice reaction time), years of football participation, age, and concussion history were examined.

The researchers found that, based on 1,662 observations recorded from 1998–2001, only 4% of the sample suffered a sport concussion over a mean duration of 4.4 years of football participation. Age was significantly positively related to performance on the DSS task (P<0.0001), but years of football remained significantly and positively associated with DSS, after controlling for age (P<0.0001). History of concussion and DSS showed no association, despite adding concussion to the model with years of football participation (P<0.0001). The number of years of football participation was not significantly associated with either pure reaction time (P = 0.07) or choice reaction time (P=0.25).

“The correlation between the number of years of football participation and the performance on the digit symbol substitution does not support the hypothesis that participation in collision sport negatively affects neurocognitive function,” the authors write.

More Information