Oculomotor Cognitive Control Abnormalities in Australian Rules Football Players with a History of Concussion

Meaghan Clough, Steven Mutimer, David K. Wright, Adrian Tsang, Daniel M. Costello, Andrew J. Gardner, Peter Stanwell, Richelle Mychasiuk, Mujun Sun, Rhys D. Brady, Stuart J. McDonald, Kyria M. Webster, Maddison R. Johnstone, Bridgette D. Semple, Denes V. Agoston, Owen B. White, Richard Frayne, Joanne Fielding, Terence J. O'Brien, Sandy R. Shultz

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14 Citations (Scopus)


This study used oculomotor, cognitive, and multi-modal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures to assess for neurological abnormalities in current asymptomatic amateur Australian rules footballers (i.e., Australia's most participated collision sport) with a history of sports-related concussion (SRC). Participants were 15 male amateur Australian rules football players with a history of SRC greater than 6 months previously, and 15 sex-, age-, and education-matched athlete control subjects that had no history of neurotrauma or participation in collision sports. Participants completed a clinical interview, neuropsychological measures, and oculomotor measures of cognitive control. MRI investigation involved structural imaging, as well as diffusion tensor imaging and resting-state functional MRI sequences. Despite no group differences on conventional neuropsychological tests and multi-modal MRI measures, Australian rules football players with a history of SRC performed significantly worse on an oculomotor switch task: a measure of cognitive control that interleaves the response of looking towards a target (i.e., a prosaccade) with the response of looking away from a target (i.e., an antisaccade). Specifically, Australian footballers performed significantly shorter latency prosaccades and found changing from an antisaccade trial to a prosaccade trial (switch cost) significantly more difficult than control subjects. Poorer switch cost was related to poorer performance on a number of neuropsychological measures of inhibitory control. Further, when comparing performance on the cognitively more demanding switch task with performance on simpler, antisaccade/prosaccades tasks which require a single response, Australian footballers demonstrated a susceptibility to increased cognitive load, compared to the control group who were unaffected. These initial results suggest that current asymptomatic amateur Australian rules football players with a history of SRC may have persisting, subtle, cognitive changes, which are demonstrable on oculomotor cognitive measures. Future studies are required in order to further elucidate the full nature and clinical relevance of these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)730-738
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • cavum septum pellucidum
  • cognition
  • DTI
  • functional MRI
  • mild TBI
  • ocular motor

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