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Neuromotor Performance in Female American Football Players is Different Than Males in a Preseason Balance Test
Neuromotor Performance in Female American Football Players is Different Than Males in a Preseason Balance Test
Submitted on 25 Feb 2016

Christopher K. Rhea, Scott E. Ross, Kristen N. Schleich, Steven M. Glass, Leah Washington, Nikita A. Kuznetsov, Jennifer L. Etnier, & Donna M. Duffy
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
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Poster Abstract
Background: There has been a rise in female participation in sports that are defined as collision sports, where athletes intentionally hit each other (e.g., American football), and these sports are associated with a relatively high rate of concussion incidence. However, most return-to-play criteria are derived from male data. Thus, it is important to determine whether female athletes perform differently than males on tests used to make return-to-play decisions so that sex-specific guidelines can be developed if needed.

Objective: This project examined neuromotor performance data collected with a balance test during pre-season testing. The goal of this project was to compare these data to previously published male norms to determine whether sex difference exist.

Methods: Female participants (N=31, age=29.0±7.0 yrs, tackle football experience=2.7±1.7 yrs) from two Independent Women’s American Football League teams performed a balance test prior to their season that consisted of three 20-sec static stances with eyes closed on a force plate using the BTrackS™ Balance Plate (Balance Tracking Systems, San Diego, CA). The dependent variable was the average total distance traveled (cm) by the center of pressure (CoP) during the three trials. Normative data of male athletes who fell within one standard deviation of the age of our female sample (range=22-36 yrs) were provided by the manufacturer. Cohen’s effect size (d) was calculated between our female football players and (1) all male athletes (N=358) and (2) male athletes who played football (N=150) to determine the magnitude of difference between the datasets.

Results: Moderate effect sizes (d=0.61 and 0.63) were observed between our female football players (M=22.65, SD=7.26) and all male athletes (M=24.31, SD=7.68), and between our female football players and male football players (M=24.37, SD=7.45).

Conclusion: The female football players in our sample had less CoP movement, indicating better balance, relative to males. Concussions are known to increase CoP movement, indicating worse balance. However, given the lower baseline CoP measures in women, our data suggest that post-concussion measures of balance in women may still be considered normative if compared to return-to-play criteria derived for men. Thus, our data suggest that sex-specific guidelines for return-to-play criteria may be justified.

Covassin, T., Swanik, C. B., Sachs, M., Kendrick, Z., Schatz, P., Zillmer, E., & Kaminaris, C. (2006). Sex differences in baseline neuropsychological function and concussion symptoms of collegiate athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(11), 923-927
Erdal, K. (2012). Neuropsychological testing for sports-related concussion: how athletes can sandbag their baseline testing without detection. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 27(5), 473-479.
Haran, F. J.., Dretch, M. N., Slaboda, J. C., Johnson, D. E., Adam, O. R., & Tsao, J. W. (2016), Comparison of baseline-referenced versus norm-referenced analytical approaches for in-theater assessment of mild traumatic brain injury neurocognitive impairment. Brain Injury, in press.
Covassin, T., & Elbin, R. J. (2011). The female athlete: the role of gender in the assessment and management of sport-related concussion. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 30(1), 125-131.
Dick, R. W. (2009). Is there a gender difference in concussio
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