The influence of general cognitive training on sport-specific performance in wheelchair basketball


Perceptual-cognitive skills are predominantly thought to be domain-specific, resulting from domain-specific practice, and therefore specific to each sport (Helsen & Starkes, 1999; Mann et al., 2007; Nuri et al., 2013; Schapschröer et al., 2016). However, proponents of general cognitive training (GCT) propose that use of non-domain-specific programs can benefit athlete performance. The purpose of this study was to test a GCT program on sport-specific perceptual-cognitive and physical skills in elite level athletes with physical disabilities. Twelve senior high performance and National Academy athletes (23.8 years, ±3.6; 33% female) were recruited from Wheelchair Basketball Canada to participate in a pre- vs. post-test intervention study for 6-weeks. Athletes were tested on sport-specific cognitive skill (i.e., pattern recall), and sport-specific physical performance measures before and after a 4-week, multiple object tracking (MOT; 3 sessions/week) intervention. Average pattern-recall error comparisons showed an increase after the MOT intervention (? = -0.17cm, p = 0.05, dz = 0.62), suggesting decreased accuracy from pre- to post-test. Other pre- to post-test results were not statistically significant. Moderation analysis suggests that changes in on-court performance from pre-to-post were influenced by level of MOT performance (b = 0.65, 95% CI [0.070, 1.22], t = 2.58, p = 0.032), with greater MOT performance associated with improved on-court performance measures from pre-to-post. This study adds to the limited research on elite athletes with physical disabilities (Dehghansai et al., 2016); however, further research with adequate control groups, is needed to test the efficacy and utility of GCT programs on sport performance.