K. Greenawalt, G. Reyes

Linfield University, McMinnville, OR

With athletic skills in sports requiring quick reaction times, accurate hand-eye coordination, and the ability to make decisions quickly, the cognitive side of athletic profile should be given attention. PURPOSE: To measure changes in reaction time (RT), hand-eye coordination (HEC), and decision-making (DM) when increasing an athlete’s arousal (via increased heart rate and sound stimulus). METHODS: Eleven participants were recruited to participate in the study. All eleven of them were current competing student-athletes at the NCAA Division III level across a variety of sports. The participants reported to the lab on three separate occasions to have their RT, HEC, and DM measured with three different arousal conditions: low arousal (no sound or elevated heart rate), medium arousal (no sound but with elevated heart rate), and high arousal (sound and elevated heart rate). Heart rate was elevated to 75-85% of their age-predicted maximum using a standardized graded walking protocol on a treadmill. Sound was administered via noise-cancelling headphones that played simulated crowd noise. The three conditions were administered in a randomized order for each participant. RT, HEC, and DM were measured by completing tasks on a cognitive sensory station that consisted of a large touchscreen and tablet. RESULTS: Fourteen different metrics that quantified RT, HEC, and DM were recorded across the three different conditions. No statistical differences were reported across the metrics and the three arousal conditions (p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: The activities designed to increase arousal in this study did not appear to significantly change cognitive function within the collegiate student-athletes participants. This could possibly provide evidence that athletes have learned through practice and competition to not let changed arousal levels effect their reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and decision-making.

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