March 16, 2020
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Subconcussive head impacts affect neuro-ophthalmologic function

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Neuro-ophthalmologic function is affected by subconcussive head impacts which may affect individuals participating in contact sports, according to a randomized clinical trial.

“The data from this randomized clinical trial confirm previous findings on the oculomotor impairment after subconcussive head impacts and generate new evidence that repetitive subconcussive head impacts can impair neuro-ophthalmologic function,” the study authors wrote.

Participants were aged 18 to 26 years with at least 5 years of soccer ball heading experience. Thirty-six were randomized to a soccer ball heading group and 31 to a kicking control group.

Both groups were administered the King-Devick test (KDT) to examine neuro-ophthalmologic functional integrity at set time points through 24 hours after a bout of 10 soccer ball headers or kicks. The researchers hypothesized that “10 bouts of soccer ball heading will significantly increase (worsen) [near point of convergence], which would persist for longer than 24 hours, while the NPC of control participants who kicked a ball would remain consistent throughout the study point.”

The kicking group performed faster on the KDT than the heading group after 10 headings with a difference at 0 hours (2.2 seconds faster), 2 hours (2.8 seconds faster) and 24 hours (2.0 seconds faster).

NPC results for the heading group were greater than for the kicking group at 0 hours (P < .001), 2 hours (P = .03) and 24 hours (P = .02).

“These findings indicate that even mild head impacts can induce impairments in neuro-ophthalmologic function that can persist for at least 24 hours,” the researchers wrote. “Our data highlight that 10 impacts are sufficient to cause mild oculomotor impairment, calling for a standardization guideline to monitor athletes’ safety.” – by Erin T. Welsh

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.