Comorbid Affective Symptomatology and Neurocognitive Performance in College Athletes

Garrett A. Thomas, Erin T. Guty, Kaitlin E. Riegler, Peter A. Arnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives: The current study aims to examine the prevalence rates and the relationship of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and comorbid depression/anxiety with neurocognitive performance in college athletes at baseline. We hypothesized a priori that the mood disturbance groups would perform worse than healthy controls, with the comorbid group performing worst overall. Methods: Eight hundred and thirty-one (M = 620, F = 211) collegiate athletes completed a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery at baseline which included self-report measures of anxiety and depression. Athletes were separated into four groups [Healthy Control (HC) (n = 578), Depressive Symptoms Only (n = 137), Anxiety Symptoms Only (n = 54), and Comorbid Depressive/Anxiety Symptoms (n = 62)] based on their anxiety and depression scores. Athletes' neurocognitive functioning was analyzed via Z score composites of Attention/Processing Speed and Memory. Results: One-way analysis of variance revealed that, compared to HC athletes, the comorbid group performed significantly worse on measures of Attention/Processing Speed but not Memory. However, those in the depressive symptoms only and anxiety symptoms only groups were not significantly different from one another or the HC group on neurocognitive outcomes. Chi-square analyses revealed that a significantly greater proportion of athletes in all three affective groups were neurocognitively impaired compared to the HC group. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that collegiate athletes with comorbid depressive/anxiety symptoms should be identified, as their poorer cognitive performance at baseline could complicate post-concussion interpretation. Thus, assessing for mood disturbance at baseline is essential to obtain an accurate measurement of baseline functioning. Further, given the negative health outcomes associated with affective symptomatology, especially comorbidities, it is important to provide care as appropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-187
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 5 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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