Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Rodger Bufford, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Freeman M. Chakara, PsyD, ABPP-CN

Third Advisor

Lane Weeks DeWan, PsyD


Growing interest in diagnosed and undiagnosed head injuries has led to a growth in research focused on mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBIs). However, limited research has focused on the impact of undiagnosed head injuries on executive functioning and self-report measures of executive functioning and self-regulation in individuals' everyday environments. This study aimed to determine the impact of the number of head injuries sustained on executive functioning, emotional regulation, and psychological functioning in current and former athletes. Current and former student-athletes were recruited at a private university. Intake interview, psychological distress measures and measures of executive functioning were completed while undergoing measurement of biophysiological functioning. Results revealed significant differences between athletes who are psychologically healthy and those experiencing psychological distress in self-monitoring, emotional control, behavioral regulation, overall global executive functioning abilities, a task of brief auditory attention, and processing speed. Athletes who more recently experienced a diagnosed or undiagnosed head injury demonstrated lower functioning on measures of executive functioning. Athletes who received treatment for head injuries demonstrated less impulsivity, and better executive functioning abilities than those who remained untreated. Neuropsychological functioning is most greatly impacted in the acute phases of recovery, demonstrating the recovery and resilience of athletes’ brain health over time, even with increasing numbers of diagnosed and undiagnosed head injuries. Time since the most recent injury, previous mental health diagnoses, previous diagnosed concussions, and previous treatment of concussions were predictors of psychological and neuropsychological functioning in this sample.

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