OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of a maximal exercise test on cognitive function in recreational athletes.
DESIGN: A repeated measures design was used to compare baseline to post neuropsychological test scores and fatigue symptoms following a maximal exercise test.
SETTING: Division 1 Institution
PARTICIPANTS: Subjects included a total of 102 male and female recreational athletes.
INTERVENTION: Subjects in the experimental group (n = 54) were asked to perform a maximal treadmill exercise test to VO2 max. Subjects in the control group were asked to rest for 15 minutes.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: All subjects were administered a neuropsychological test battery called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) pre and post exercise to measure neurocognitive function and fatigue symptoms.
RESULTS: Results revealed a significant group (control, experimental) x time (baseline, post-test 1, post-test 2) interaction for verbal memory composite scores (p = 0.025). Specifically, verbal memory composite scores decreased in the experimental group from baseline to post-test 1 (p = 0.00). These values returned to baseline three days following the VO2 max test (p = 0.00). Further analysis on verbal memory composite scores demonstrated statistically significant differences on immediate recall memory (p = 0.00) and delayed recall memory (p = 0.00). There were no significant differences for visual memory (p = 0.54), motor processing speed (p = 0.68), and reaction time (p = 0.44) composite scores between the experimental and control groups.
CONCLUSION: Results of this study suggest a maximal exercise test attenuated a limiting effect on cognitive function. When utilizing a neuropsychological test battery to evaluate a patient who has sustained a head injury, the test should not be administered immediately following a practice or game session.
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