Baseline concussion testing depicts an athlete's basic mental abilities, such as reaction time, working memory and attention span. Athletes who suffer a concussion retake the test, and if there is a large decrease in the score, they are typically banned from play until their score improves.
The study included more than 3,600 high school- and college-aged participants who were divided into three groups based on their amounts of self-reported sleep the night before baseline testing: fewer than 7 hours, 7 to 9 hours, and more than 9 hours.
The athletes who slept fewer than 7 hours the night before testing had significantly lower scores than expected on reaction time, verbal memory and visual memory. They also had significant differences in the total number of reported symptoms, compared to those in the other two groups, the study authors noted.
The study was scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine in Chicago.
"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," one of the researchers, Jake McClure of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said in a society news release.
The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains baseline concussion testing in young athletes.