Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the residual effects of concussion amongst players of Rugby Union from school through to the national adult level, with pre-season testing on tests of visuomotor processing speed (Digit Symbol; Trail Making Test A and B). Comparison groups included 124 male rugby players versus 102 non-contact sport controls; 71 forward versus 53 backline players. Across groups there was equivalence for age, education, estimated IQ, and hand motor dexterity. There was a significantly higher percentage of rugby players with 2+ concussions than controls. Poorer performance was in evidence for rugby players compared with controls on all tests of visuomotor speed, and for forward versus backline players on Digit Symbol, with clinically relevant medium effect sizes. The results implicate vulnerability amongst rugby players on the prototypically sensitive function of visuomotor processing in association with years of exposure to repetitive concussive and subconcussive injury.

Author notes

This article is an extended version of a paper that was presented at the Joint Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, British Neuropsychology Society and Division of Neuropsychology of the British Psychological Society, Dublin, Ireland, July 6–9, 2005.
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The research was supported by grants from the Rhodes University Council; the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Players Fund; the South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU); and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF).