The purpose of this study was to examine executive functions in team sport athletes
with and without a history of concussion. Executive functions comprise many cognitive
processes including, working memory, attention and multi-tasking. Past research has
shown that concussions cause difficulties in vestibular-visual and vestibular-auditory
dual-tasking, however, visual-auditory tasks have been examined rarely. Twenty-nine
intercollegiate varsity ice hockey athletes (age = 19.13, SD = 1.56; 15 females) performed
an experimental dual-task paradigm that required simultaneously processing visual
and auditory information. A brief interview, event description and self-report questionnaires
were used to assign participants to each group (concussion, no-concussion). Eighteen
athletes had a history of concussion and 11 had no concussion history. The two tests
involved visuospatial working memory (i.e., Corsi block test) and auditory tone discrimination.
Participants completed both tasks individually, then simultaneously. Two outcome variables
were measured, Corsi block memory span and auditory tone discrimination accuracy.
No differences were shown when each task was performed alone; however, athletes with
a history of concussion had a significantly worse performance on the tone discrimination
task in the dual-task condition. In conclusion, long-term deficits in executive functions
were associated with a prior history of concussion when cognitive resources were stressed.
Evaluations of executive functions and divided attention appear to be helpful in discriminating
participants with and without a history concussion.