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Differences in Brain Functions Results in non-contact Knee Injuries

p with non-contact ACL injuries demonstrated significantly slower reaction time and processing speed and performed worse on visual and verbal memory tests when compared to the control group.

These results suggest that slower processing speed and reaction time, as well as lower visual and verbal memory performance may predispose certain individuals to errors in coordination during physical activity that can lead to injury, Swanik said. But can we do anything to improve our brain function and protect ourselves from injury?

This study means that there may be an alternative application for neurocognitive testing in the area of injury prevention. It's hard to say at this point how much we can alter these characteristics with training, but certainly the brain has great potential for learning and adaptation. Controlling stress and anxiety must be considered, as both cause changes in muscle tone and concentration and the narrowing of our attentional field, Swanik noted.

There is likely an optimal state of arousal for each individual to maximize performance and injury avoidance, but future studies will have to determine the relationship between our results and anxiety, Swanik added.

A follow-up study is now under way in UD's state-of-the-art Human Performance Laboratory with support from the University of Delaware Research Foundation.

We're trying to identify people who are or are not 'caught off guard' during different landing tasks. Then we'd like to match the neuro-cognitive characteristics of people who are easily distracted or have awkward landings. This would allow us to search for injury-prone or perhaps accident-resistant people, Swanik said.

So what light might this study shed on Donovan McNabb's ACL injury in that ill-fated game with the Tennessee Titans last November? It's a challenge to explain how such a highly conditioned, muscular and coordinated athlete is injured, unless we c
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