Investigating the Contribution of Personality and Neurological Disruption to Postinjury Outcome in Athletes with Mild Head Injury
Despite the increase in research regarding mild head injury (MHI), relatively little has investigated whether, or the extent to which, premorbid factors (i.e., personality traits) influence, or otherwise account for, outcomes post-MHI. The current study examined the extent to which postinjury outcome after MHI is analogous to the outcome post-moderate or- severe traumatic brain injury (by comparing the current results to previous literature pertaining to individuals with more severe brain injuries) and whether these changes in function and behaviour are solely, or primarily, due to the injury, or reflect, and are possibly a consequence of, one’s preinjury status. In a quasi-experimental, test-retest design, physiological indices, cognitive abilities, and personality characteristics of university students were measured. Since the incidence of MHI is elevated in high-risk activities (including high-risk sports, compared to other etiologies of MHI; see Laker, 2011) and it has been found that high-risk athletes present with unique, risk-taking behaviours (in terms of personality; similar to what has been observed post-MHI) compared to low-risk and non-athletes. Seventy-seven individuals (42% with a history of MHI) of various athletic statuses (non-athletes, low-risk athletes, and high-risk athletes) were recruited. Consistent with earlier studies (e.g., Baker & Good, 2014), it was found that individuals with a history of MHI displayed decreased physiological arousal (i.e., electrodermal activation) and, also, endorsed elevated levels of sensation seeking and physical/reactive aggression compared to individuals without a history of MHI. These traits were directly associated with decreased physiological arousal. Moreover, athletic status did not account for this pattern of performance, since low- and high-risk athletes did not differ in terms of personality characteristics. It was concluded that changes in behaviour post-MHI are associated, at least in part, with the neurological and physiological compromise of the injury itself (i.e., physiological underarousal and possible subtle OFC dysfunction) above and beyond influences of premorbid characteristics.