Last weekend, at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, researchers presented work regarding effects on sleep in athletes. According to a new study, athletes who didn’t get enough sleep the night before undergoing baseline concussion testing didn’t perform as well as expected.

“Our results indicate athletes sleeping less than 7 hours the night prior to baseline concussion testing did not do as well on 3 out of 4 ImPACT scores and showed more symptoms,” said Jake McClure, MD, from Vanderbilt University Medical College. “Because return-to-play decisions often hinge on the comparison of post-concussion to baseline concussion scores, our research indicates that healthcare providers should consider the sleep duration prior to baseline neurocognitive testing as a potential factor in assessing recovery.”

Researchers reviewed 2,371 male and 1,315 female non-concussed athletes with baseline symptom and ImPACT neurocognitive scores. Of the 3,686 subjects, 3,305 were of high-school age and 381 were college-aged individuals. Participants were divided into three groups based on self-reported sleep duration the night before testing: fewer than 7 hours, 7-9 hours, and greater than 9 hours. Results showed significant differences in reaction time, verbal memory, and visual memory scores in the group sleeping less than 7 hours. Visual-motor (processing) speed scores did not seem to be affected. Additionally, significant differences in the total number of reported symptoms were associated with sleeping fewer than 7 hours.

“Understanding factors which modify baseline testing, potentially including sleep, will continue to help lead to more accurate concussion testing, which ultimately equips clinicians with the best judgment to avoid returning athletes to competition earlier than necessary,” said McClure.