Cognitive-motor performance & balance in athletes with previous concussion.

Cognitive-motor performance & balance in athletes with previous concussion.

“Keeping your head on a swivel”: Sport-Related Concussion May Affect Balance After Symptoms Have Resolved

The most recent consensus on concussion in sport has recognized balance as its own clinical domain of sport-related concussion. Balance control is maintained by the visual, vestibular, and somatosensory systems. Athletes must be able to integrate these senses with quick decision-making to be successful in their sport. Cross and colleagues (2015) found that rugby players with previous concussion had a 60% increased risk of injury after they returned to sport. This may be caused by undetected sensory deficits that remained after an athlete has been cleared to return to play.

My research investigates the differences in single leg balance during a visually-guided Go/No-Go task between athletes with and without previous concussion. The task uses a FitLight Trainer System and a Wii Balance Board (see picture below) that collects the forces under the foot. Five lights are arranged in an arc on the floor in front of the Wii board. Athletes must respond to Green (Go) lights by hovering their foot over top and have to remain still for the Red (No-Go) lights. Each FitLight illuminates randomly, so that the athlete cannot follow a pattern. Balance is assessed by calculating the average forces under the foot, or the center of pressure. Further analysis allows us to investigate how each athlete controls the movement and speed of this centre of pressure during the task. In addition, a physiotherapist assesses each athlete’s eye movement, tracking, and motion sensitivity that may affect balance. Previous findings have demonstrated that youth hockey players perform this task more slowly even after their concussion symptoms have gone away.

Cognitive-motor performance & balance in athletes with previous concussion.

This research suggests that challenging balance control with more sport-related tasks may help health care professionals determine an athlete’s true readiness for return to sport and prevent subsequent injuries. We are currently recruiting young adult male and female athletes with recent concussion between 3 months to < 1 year post-injury, please contact Katie Mitchell at


McCrory P, Meeuwisse W, Dvorak J, et al. (2017). Consensus statement on concussion in sport—the 5th international conference on concussion in sport held in Berlin, October 2016. British Journal Sports Medicine, Published Online First: 26 April 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097699

Cross, M, Kemp, S., Smith, A., Trewartha, G. and Stokes, K. (2015). Professional Rugby Union players have a 60% greater risk of time loss injury after concussion: a 2-season prospective study of clinical outcomes. British Journal of Sports Medicine. doi:10.1136/