Term of Award

Spring 2017

Degree Name

Master of Science in Kinesiology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Health and Kinesiology

Committee Chair

Nicholas Murray

Committee Member 1

Tamerah Hunt

Committee Member 2

Brandonn Harris

Committee Member 3

George Shaver

Committee Member 3 Email



Background: Executive functions are high-level cognitive processes that allow a person to successfully engage in an independent and self-fulfilling life. Previous literature indicates that acute pain can affect executive function, which may be due to a limited amount of shared neural resources of the brain.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine if acute pain affects executive function in recreationally active individuals who sustain a musculoskeletal injury.

Methodology: Twenty-four participants who presented with acute pain due to a musculoskeletal injury underwent a neuropsychological battery within 72 hours of injury and within two weeks from the initial testing session. Pain intensity was measured using the Visual Analog Scale (VAS). The neuropsychological battery consisted of the following tests: Digit Span (DS), Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), and Trail Making Test B (TMT-B). The DS was broken into two separate scores, the RAVLT 4 scores, and TMT-B one score. Seven paired samples t-tests were conducted using an adjusted alpha level of .007.

Significance: Participants had significantly improved scores when pain free in DS forwards (T(1,23)=-3.943; p p p=0.023), RAVLT A1 (p=.563), RAVLT sum A1 to A5 (p=0.953), RAVLT A6 (p=1.0), RAVLT recognition list A (p=0.009).

Outcomes: Improved neuropsychological scores were seen in immediate recall (DS forward) and set switching (TMT-B) when participants were pain free. No significance was found between conditions for working memory and auditory verbal learning.

Research Data and Supplementary Material