The Effects of Sub-concussive Impacts on Virtual Reality Test Performance and Academics

Open Access
Walter, Alexa Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Semyon Slobounov, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sarah Mary Assmann, Honors Advisor
  • Jinger Gottschall, Honors Advisor
  • sub-concussion
  • impact
  • academics
  • virtual reality
Multiple hits to the head can greatly influence executive and cognitive functions. However, there is minimal current research examining the effects of sub-concussive hits on a participant’s academic performance. It is expected that repetitive sub-concussive impacts will negatively affect academic performance and virtual reality performance. In an effort to test the relationship between academics and impacts, virtual reality tests measuring reaction time, balance, and spatial navigation were administered to Penn State club rugby players. Since rugby is a high contact sport, it is assumed that multiple sub-concussive blows will occur to the athlete during a practice or match. Players were tested on virtual reality programs during-the-season and after-the-season (a two month time span) in addition to completing a questionnaire about their medical history, academic history and effects of participating in rugby on their learning and study habits. Data were analyzed and correlation analysis was run to see if relationships or trends exist among virtual reality performance and academics. Both balance and attention span were found to be negatively impacted during the athlete’s season. While there were clear trends seen in the data, they were not statistically significant, likely due to the small subject group.