Comparative Essay |Concussion in Contact Sport

Concussion in contact sports is a big deal at the moment, especially in the National Football league in the United States and Australian Football League.  Recently Australia launched its first brain bank, scientists are calling for anyone that has ever played high impact contact sports to consider donating their brains. So Researchers can study the impact of repeated concussions when they die. This paper is based on two studies that were done in Canada and Australia, both studies wanted to find out the impact repeated concussions have on ageing and cognitive function.

One was done in 2014 and was published in Journal of Neurotrauma. Alan J Pearce his colleagues investigated the effect of continuous trauma on retired Australian football players using transcranial magnetic stimulation. They investigated fine motor dexterity, excitability inhibition, and cognitive function. The second paper was published in Canada by Jeffry G. Caron and colleagues; in the journal of sports psychology in 2013. The study investigated the effect of repeated concussion on retired hockey players. The study focused on the impact of concussions on lived experiences. They used hermeneutic, ideographic and inductive methods in the IPA model.


The first similarity found in both these research papers is that they both assess the long-term impact of concussion in contact sports. Secondly, although the sports being investigated is different, one asses hockey, the other asses Australian football, they both asses retired athletes. The major difference in these studies is that one deals with the social-cultural effects of concussions. The researchers in Canada were trying to find if there is a link between the breakdown of the players social and relational life the multiple concussions they suffered during their hockey career.

The type of research done in Canada was qualitative. Qualitative research methods are designed to record the players feeling and behaviours towards a particular issue. Qualitative research techniques usually use open-ended question, and they take a long time that is why they are often used in studies like these. The data analysis method used was the interpretive phenomenological analysis, IPA focuses on what a given person feels. It is appropriate for this type of study because it reduces researcher bias through the use open-ended question.

They did it this way to access the validity and credibility of the participants; the sample size is also reasonable for a qualitative study. The sample size is crucial because it gives the study credibility. Also, it makes so that the results can be generalised to the rest of the population. And, it makes it so that other researchers can replicate the study with others sports under different conditions. IPA is great because it puts the participants in charge so that they make sense of what was happening to them. IPA is now widely used in the field of psychology because of the personal nature of the technique.

In this case, while the results that have been given are compelling, they should be read with caution. This is because the data was collected 15 seasons after the players had retired. Hence the accuracy and recollection of the events will come into question. The Canadian study was more of an assessment of social and relational impact. Despite all the limitation of the study, it is supported by other studies that have found a continuous link between concussion and a reduction in cognitive function later in life ( Caron et al.,2013).

The study in Australia was trying to find out if there changes in the corticomotor excitability and cognitive functions after repeated concussions.  It was also qualitative research and only had 60 participants. The researchers tested the participant’s anxiety, depression and the social outcomes. They used transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is a non-invasive method used to stimulate small regions of the brain. It is used to measure the relationship between brain and muscle to evaluate damage from stroke or MS.

All data were screened for normal distribution using the Shapiro Wilk test (Flynn,2010).  The Shapiro Wilk test measures the null hypothesis which is a test of whether two entities that are being regulated are related. The Australian study found the data to be normally distributed and related. The participants were compared to determine the differences between groups using the ANOVA TEST (Campbell & Subhash,2013).  The ANOVA test is used to determine what the differences in the study mean. The relationship between the variable was estimated using the standard regression analysis tool (Pearce et al.,2015).

The main aim of the Australian study was to assess is are corticomotor changes in Australian football players who had suffered from concussions. The researchers were able to show a reduction in the Cortical Silent Period (CSP). CSP refers to the transcranial interruption of voluntary muscle contraction and general reaction time. The authors gave a comprehensive discussion on what the results mean. In their review, they mentioned that the data is Circumstantial, and the long-term impact of concussion is still largely not well researched and understood.

The results of both the studies have been discussed, and they all more or less come to the same conclusion which is that continuous concussion in sports has a long-term impact on an individual brain. The difference in CSP, SICI, and LICI are consistent with changes in the GABAergic activity.  However, upon analysis with the regression analysis model, the predictive relationships differed in the three measures of inhibition.

In conclusion, both of the articles adequately show the impact of continuous concussion has on the brain. The study on Canadian Hockey players should be viewed with caution. Because, even though the research method they used was appropriate for the study, it relied too much on the individual participant for the information. Another reason not view this study with caution is that it was done 15 years after the players had retired. The Australian study is a bit more controlled in that it bypassed the individual’s who suffered repeated concussion consciousness and its physiological response to specific tasks. Ultimately, the two papers show me that, no matter how robust and well researched a publication is; there are always flaws.



Pearce, A. J., Hoy, K., Rogers, M. A., Corp, D. T., Maller, J. J., Drury, H. G. K., & Fitzgerald, P. B. (2014). The long-term effects of sports concussion on retired australian football players: A study using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Journal of Neurotrauma, 31(13), 1139-45. doi:

Caron, J. G., Bloom, G. A., Johnston, K. M., & Sabiston, C. M. (2013). Effects of Multiple Concussions on Retired National Hockey League Players. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 35(2), 168-179.

Flynn, M. R. (2010). Analysis of censored exposure data by constrained maximization of the Shapiro–Wilk W statistic. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 54(3), 263-271. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/mep083


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