of Acute Exercise on Clinically Measured Reaction Time in Collegiate Athletes

Reddy S, Eckner JT, & Kutcher JS. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.  Epub ahead of print
August 11, 2013; doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000140


Take Home Message: Assessing
reaction time with a simple sidelines reaction-time task is not influenced by
biking exercise.

In efforts to objectively assess
concussion symptoms, we measure reaction time via neurocognitive testing or a
simple, non-computerized instrument (see related posts below).  However, it is important to determine if
exercise has an effect on reaction time to understand how to interpret reaction
time changes.  Therefore, the purpose of
this study was to examine the effects of varying exercise intensity levels on a
simple reaction time task. Among 42
volunteers, the authors randomly selected 28 participants to perform a 4-stage biking
task at increasing intensities and 14 control participants who merely sat on
the exercise bike. All participants completed the reaction time task and the
authors also measured heart rate and rate of perceived exertion among those
exercising.  The reaction time task
involved holding onto a cylindrical shaft that was dropped at random time
increments between 2 to 5 seconds.  The
participants completed the reaction time task 8 times after each stage of the
exercise protocol (or simulated stages) and the authors calculated the average
reaction time at the five testing points. There were no reaction time
differences between those that did and did not exercise.  In both groups, participants improved their reaction
time as they repeated the reaction time task over the course of 5 tests. 

Clinically, there is no apparent
effect of increasing intensity during biking on a simple reaction time task
that could be used on sidelines.  This
may allow for the use of a simple sideline reaction time task to objectively
assess for a possible concussion.  In
trying to objectify a concussion evaluation, this may prove to be valuable
since neuropsychological testing is not easily and readily available during the
course of an event.  It is of note that
the exercise bouts studied were simple biking tasks, and none of the athletes
studied were cyclists.  It may be
interesting to see what the effects of functional exercise bouts may be on this
reaction time task.  The authors admitted
that there was an apparent learning curve, which led to improved performance
over time in both groups.  Also, this
task, while simple, may be affected by other various components such as
concomitant injury, anxiety, cardiovascular status, etc. Overall, this test
continues to be an interesting method to assess reaction time. 

Questions for Discussion: Do you think that you would be
interested in utilizing a sideline reaction time task to inform your concussion
evaluation?  Are there any other objective measurements that you use?
by: Nicole Cattano
by: Jeffrey Driban

Related Posts:

Consistency of a Clinical Reaction Time Assessment Between Seasons: A Possible Low Cost Concussion Assessment?

Reddy S, Eckner JT, & Kutcher JS (2013). Effect of Acute Exercise on Clinically Measured Reaction Time in Collegiate Athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise PMID: 24002343