The effect of divided attention on gait stability following concussion

Tonya M. Parker, Louis R. Osternig, Heng Ju Lee, Paul Van Donkelaar, Li Shan Chou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


Background. The need to identify functional impairment following a brain injury is critical to prevent re-injury during the period of recovery. While many neuropsychological tests have been developed to assess cognitive performance, relatively little information on gait and dynamic stability is available on motor task performance for young adults following concussion. This study was performed to investigate the effect of divided attention following concussion on various gait variables. It was hypothesized that, when compared to uninjured controls, concussed subjects would demonstrate deficits in maintenance of dynamic stability. Methods. Ten subjects with Grade 2 concussion completed testing within 48 h of injury as well as 10 age-, height-, weight-, and activity-matched controls. The gait protocol consisted of level walking under two conditions: (1) undivided attention (single-task) and (2) while simultaneously completing simple mental tasks (dual-task). Whole-body motion data were collected using a six-camera motion analysis system. A 13-segment biomechanical model was used to compute whole body center of mass motion and velocity. Findings. Walking with a concurrent cognitive task resulted in significant changes in gait and center of mass measurements for both groups. Concussed subjects were found to be able to conservatively adjust their whole body center of mass motion to maintain dynamic stability while walking without divided attention. However, while walking with divided attention, subjects with concussion demonstrated a significantly greater medio-lateral center of mass sway. Interpretation. These data suggest that the ability to control and maintain stability in the frontal plane during walking is diminished under divided attention in individuals following a concussion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-395
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Biomechanics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005 May
Externally publishedYes


  • Balance
  • Center of mass
  • Gait
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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