Elevated Smooth Pursuit Gain in Collegiate Athletes with Sport-related Concussion Immediately Following Injury


Purpose: Although there is evidence that sport-related concussion (SRC) affects oculomotor function and perceptual ability, experiments are often poorly controlled and are not replicable. This study aims to test the hypothesis that there are decreased values when assessing oculomotor impairment indicating poorer performance in SRC patients.

Methods: Fifteen DI athletes presenting with SRC (7 females, 8 males) and 15 student volunteers (CON) (12 females, 3 males) completed a dynamic visual acuity (DVA) task that involved answering the direction of a moving stimulus (Landolt C) while wearing a head-mounted binocular eye tracker. There were 120 trials total with 60 trials presenting at 30º per second and 60 presenting at 90º per second. Various eye movement measurements, including horizontal smooth pursuit eye movements (SPEM) gain and saccadic peak velocity, were analyzed between groups using univariate ANOVAs. Saccade count in SPEM trials, accuracy, and vision were analyzed using Kruskal–Wallis tests.

Results: There was no statistical difference in saccadic peak velocity: SRC = 414.7 ± 42º/s, CON = 406.6 ± 40.6º/s. A significant difference was found between SRC patients and healthy controls in horizontal SPEM gain (SRC = 0.9 ± 0.04, CON = 0.86 ± 0.03, F(1,28) = 7.243, P = 0.012) indicating that patients demonstrated compensatory eye movements when tracking the target. There were significantly more saccades in all SPEM trials (P = 0.001).

Conclusion: SRC oculomotor deficits manifest as elevated horizontal SPEM gain when assessed within 48 hours of injury and compared to healthy controls within the same age range. SRC demonstrates altered oculomotor ability. While accurate in tracking a stimulus, SRC patients may conduct less controlled eye movements.


Concussion, mTBI, Oculomotor Control, Visual Acuity

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