Yes, a football player suffering heat exhaustion will feel a lot better after a 30-minute break, but if he’s still in uniform and pads, the athlete actually is cooking inside his gear and is closer to death than he or his coach may realize.
That’s what two juniors in Central Michigan University’s athletic training program — Grace Katt of South Haven and Tim Di Mango of Milford — found during an award-winning research project.
“You have cell death. You can have organ failure, and that’s what ultimately leads to death,” Katt said.
Their work won the Best Original Research Award at the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association’s annual meeting this year in Chicago. It’s no small honor: GLATA is the largest regional sports medicine conference in the country.
Kevin Miller, a CMU rehabilitation and medical sciences faculty member, oversaw the project.
Katt and Di Mango keyed on football players, who are particularly prone to heat exhaustion — especially with practices about to start under a scorching sun.
So, what’s a coach or an athletic trainer to do? Have a tub of cold water on hand, and get the player immersed ASAP. Fifty degrees or so is just fine, Miller said.
And at this stage, don’t worry about the uniform and pads. The cold water still cools the athlete quickly, and stripping down the player before the plunge wastes valuable time.
“How long you stay too hot determines whether you live or die,” Miller said.
Ten male volunteers, all physically active and in full football gear, ran on a treadmill until they reached body temperatures of about 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit or showed signs of agitation, sickness or loss of body control, Di Mango said.
The subjects then were immersed in a tub of water after delays of five and 30 minutes — on different days — and their core temperatures and cooling rates were monitored.
At no point were the volunteers in any danger. Miller said exertional heat stroke usually occurs at a body temperature over 105 degrees.
“We bring them as close as we can — safely,” he said.
Katt said she and Di Mango based their study on three questions: What happens to body temperature when treatment is delayed for football players in full uniform? Is cold water immersion still effective after the delay? What are the athletes’ perceptions before and after the exercise and during immersion?
The cooling rate was the same after 30 minutes as it was after five, the students found, and immersion still worked.
However, they also learned that while the athletes still felt terrible after the five-minute wait, they reported feeling much better after a half hour.
But they weren’t better.
“We need to rely on things like rectal thermometry instead of asking an athete how they’re feeling,” Katt said, “because they’re not able to accurately tell what their core body temperature is.”
That’s especially important for athletic trainers who move from one practice field to another and can only guess the amount of time a player has been overheated, she said.
Miller was impressed.
“Grace and Tim have done a fantastic job,” he said. “They are really pushing the profession of athletic training forward with this research.”
Miller said CMU is one of the rare schools that offers such opportunities to undergraduates. Original research usually is reserved for master’s and doctoral candidates.
“We tell our students, ‘We’re here to help you go as far as you want,’” he said. “So if they want to present research at a national meeting or a regional meeting, we can help them do that.
“And so far all of those students have taken me up on those opportunities. They go to these conferences, and they represent CMU very well.”
Mike Hadden couldn’t comprehend what was happening to his beloved niece.
Alex Hermstad was 12 years old when she started experiencing weakness in her hand, leading to an alarming diagnosis — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS, a disorder that typically doesn’t strike people until their mid-50s. Her identical twin sister, Jaci, had no such symptoms. On Valentine’s Day in 2011, Alex died at her Storm Lake home. She was 17.
Hadden, a scientist and a health care professional who is one of The Des Moines Register’s People to Watch in 2017, restlessly probed for an explanation. As director of athletic training at Simpson College, he was also troubled by seeing the damage young athletes were suffering from concussions. He searched for a link, theorizing there had to be something in the environment making young people more susceptible to such trauma.
He devoured some 15,000 scholarly articles, and took a sabbatical year from Simpson to conduct his own research.
Hadden returned to work only to confront another family’s grief over another incomprehensible death to someone far too young. Zac Easter was 24 years old when he took his own life Dec. 19, 2015, driven to despair after six diagnosed concussions left his brain ravaged by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. Repeated concussive blows to the head have been shown to lead to CTE. Hadden had known the Easters for years, from the time Zac’s father, Myles, was the football coach at Simpson.
That was when Hadden — with assistance from Jill Wilson, who was the athletic trainer at Indianola High School when Easter played football there — embarked on a potentially game-changing research project on concussions from his modest office at Simpson College, a liberal arts school in Indianola with fewer than 2,000 students.
‘Something’s going on’
Hadden immediately reached out to a family that wanted the same thing he did — for something positive to emerge from tragedy.
“I had experience with a severe loss like that, and I knew the terminology. I knew how to get things moving. I knew what had to be done. We made sure to save tissue from Zac in case we wanted to do further tests,” Hadden said.
“There’s obviously something going on. ALS in a 12-year-old? CTE in a 24-year-old? That kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”
Hadden sent tissue and fluids from Easter to Dr. Bennet Omalu in California. The forensic pathologist — famously played by Will Smith in the movie “Concussion” — confirmed that Easter suffered from CTE.
The Easter family enlisted Hadden’s help in establishing a nonprofit organization called CTE Hope. The goal is to fulfill Zac Easter’s dying wish of making football a safer sport and to establish a reliable return-to-play protocol for athletes who have been concussed.
Hadden obtained saliva samples from three Simpson football players who suffered concussions, carefully storing the samples in minus-80 degree temperatures. Hadden and others hope that doctors and sports trainers worldwide will be able to use a simple test to determine when an athlete has a concussion and, more importantly, when it is safe for him or her to return to the sport.
All from a simple spit test.
“That’s our missing link in all of this. Because we can’t evaluate the brain like we can a knee, shoulder, ankle,” said Wilson, who is also an adjunct professor at Simpson. “It’s going to take the discussions out and the questions out from parents, coaches and athletic trainers. Because it’s not fun to be that person on the sideline to release them to play and every time they take a hit, you cringe, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The spit test
It is estimated that 1.5 million athletes suffer concussions each year. But experts fear 60 percent of concussions — potentially an additional 2.5 million — go undiagnosed under the current protocols. Also of concern is that the current five-step protocol for allowing an athlete to return to his or her sport — the so-called Zurich guidelines developed in 2008 — is imperfect. Those guidelines call for the gradual increase of physical activity before a concussion-sufferer returns to play.
The idea for a solution came to Hadden last March, when he read an article by David Walt, a professor in the chemistry department at Tufts University in Boston. Walt’s group is at the forefront of efforts to diagnose illnesses from saliva rather than blood using a “single molecule analysis.”
Concussions have long been linked to a spike in certain protein levels in the brain. If those “biomarkers” can be detected through a patient’s saliva, in theory doctors and athletic trainers could keep collecting samples until they knew those proteins had returned to the normal range, taking the guesswork out of the diagnosis.
To start, Hadden collected saliva samples from 93 of Simpson’s 130 football players this fall, plus another dozen from women’s soccer competitors, all of whom volunteered to be part of the project. These were stored to establish a baseline of the protein levels that were present in the saliva of the healthy athletes.
The sports seasons unfolded with relatively few concussions — great news, Hadden is quick to point out — but he did diagnose three football players who suffered concussions at home games. The initial saliva sample needed to be gathered in the first 20 minutes after the injury, then stored at minus-80 degree temperatures while transported to the freezer being used by Hadden. He kept a cooler and a supply of dry ice in his office, to be prepared.
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Hadden kept gathering saliva from the injured players — 24 hours out, again at three days, at one week and, ultimately, after they were pronounced symptom-free. All of the telltale spit will be shipped to Tufts this winter, when Walt and his crew have some room in their schedule of tens of thousands of analyses they conduct each year. Walt said the tests take about four hours, and he hopes to have results within two days. He’ll be looking for elevated protein levels and how quickly those moved back to the athlete’s “baseline” stage.
Hadden said two of the football players progressed normally from their concussions, but the third had a relapse. He is curious to see what the difference was in their saliva.
If successful, Hadden envisions a time when trainers like himself can diagnose concussions armed with not much more than a cotton swab.
Hadden hopes to be able to release the results to the medical community by the next CTE Hope fundraising gala on April 21 in Indianola. He’s also hopeful that his studies can be broadened to include other universities in Iowa, so that the sample sizes can be much larger going forward.
It’s this kind of work that drew the Easter family to Hadden when they started the nonprofit. Brenda Easter — Zac’s mother — said Hadden provides the scientific mastery while she handles public relations for CTE Hope.
“I have all the confidence in Mike and the work that he has started. If the saliva testing isn’t the right method to evaluate a trauma to an athlete, then we go to blood or we go to urine. He’s going to pave the way. He’s that committed and he’s got that kind of energy,” Easter said.
“We do have a bond. He lost his niece to a horrible disease. And while they’re a little further ahead with ALS testing, CTE is in the same boat. Neither one has a whole lot of firm treatment programs or protocols to follow when people are diagnosed,” she said.
Now Hadden’s work with CTE Hope, a mission that arose out of the deaths of Alex Hermstad and Zac Easter, may put Hadden on a national stage. If so, it would be their legacy, not his, Hadden said.
But he’s already fulfilled Brenda Easter’s late son’s dying wish.
“If something like (CTE Hope) existed when my son started to have the symptoms, I would have just been so blessed to know that there is a place and they know how to treat it. Zac said to me more than once, ‘Mom, there is no hope for me.’ And he wasn’t wrong,” Brenda Easter said.
“This work was Zac’s wish. It’s not like you can buy a gift for him any longer, and so the only gift I can give him now is to carry out his wishes. And we’re so blessed to have someone as compassionate as Mike to lead the way.”
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s in biology/physical education at Buena Vista, 1990; master’s in sports administration/biomechanics at Kansas, 1997.
CAREER: Director of athletic training and professor in department of Sports Science & Health Education since 1997; head athletic trainer at Mercy-Des Moines Sports Medicine and athletic trainer at Des Moines Roosevelt High School, 1991-97
Article reposted from The Blade
Author: ANDREA CRIPPS
When a student-athlete suffers a hit to the head on the playing field, a protocol is observed to determine if a concussion has been sustained.
How long does it take for that athlete to recover from a concussion? What happens in the classroom and who does he or she turn to for help?
That’s where my research at Bowling Green State University’s School of Human Movement, Sport, and Leisure Studies, comes into play. My main research concentration is sensory impairment after concussions: how vision, hearing, and the somatosensory systems are compromised. In addition, she looks at academic decline after a concussion to investigate whether a student’s GPA regresses.
What we’re seeing is that a lot of college students don’t know how to talk to their professors about the challenges they face in the classroom. Even just going to class under the fluorescent lights can be a huge detriment to learning for a student who has sustained a concussion.
College kids don’t understand how much concussions affect them. They might not be able to study, concentrate, or even read a book. Sometimes they can’t even hold a conversation without the symptoms being provoked again.
My aim is to determine if visuo-motor processing deficits, which can occur after concussions, can improve through therapy, which may also reduce recovery time.
So far, one concussion doesn’t seem to be a problem academically, but subsequent concussions can have a much higher impact on students’ “return to learn,” as the NCAA and the Centers for Disease Control have called it.
Symptoms of a concussion include headaches, difficulty remembering, difficulty sleeping, sensitivity to noise, nausea, and sometimes vomiting.
Obviously, headaches are probably one of the biggest symptoms. Students often feel like they are in a fog.
Once an athlete has had a concussion, research suggests he or she is four times as likely to sustain a second concussion. From there, an athlete is 10 times as likely to sustain a third concussion, and the susceptibility continues to grow.
My main goal is to have a better understanding of how to help students in the classroom and what we need to do to get information out to teachers and professors so we can assist them in the classroom.
Even though football concussions get a lot of attention in the media, women’s ice hockey actually has higher incidence rates. Athletes in all sports can get a concussion, not just contact sports. Football numbers are the highest, but the percentage rates of players that sustain concussions are actually highest in hockey.
You hear about football because schools have the greatest number of athletes playing and participating in football. You’re actually more likely to sustain a concussion playing women’s soccer, rugby, lacrosse, or ice hockey.
My research is focused on college athletes, but I plan to study high school-aged student-athletes in the near future.
My plan is to set up preseason testing for the surrounding Wood County schools so athletes can set a baseline standard before they begin participation. Then if they ever get a concussion, I’ll be able to retest them so I can provide the student-athletes and their physicians with a better assessment than they would typically get in an office.
The evaluations before and after would offer a basis for comparison.
I would do some balance testing with them, as well as cognitive testing and some visual testing just to get a baseline measure. And then if they do get a concussion, I would repeat the measures to see how they are changing.
Ultimately, I want to make student-athletes more aware of concussions and what they can do to aid their recovery so they don’t get lost in the classroom.
The media is doing a great job of bringing concussions to the forefront, but at the same time it is a scary situation if you’re not well-informed. Getting the truth out about concussions is important. If I could change the world, I’d like to make sports safer. That is a big goal.
Andrea Cripps, PhD, is a certified athletic trainer who joined Bowling Green State University as an assistant professor in 2015. Ms. Cripps’ research interests include how the sensory systems — visual, vestibular, and somatosensory — are affected following a concussion and how these impairments affect upright balance. For more information, visit bgsu.edu. Bowling Green State University will have a science column featured in The Blade on the last Monday of every month.
The University of Kentucky and the Jockeys’ Guild Monday announced a three-year pilot study, supported by a broad cross-section of Thoroughbred organizations, that is designed to evolve into the first comprehensive concussion management protocol for jockeys.
Carl Mattacola, the director of the Graduate Athletic Training Program and a professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Kentucky, will oversee the study at all of Kentucky’s thoroughbred racetracks: Turfway Park, Keeneland Race Course, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs. It is scheduled to begin this summer.
“We want to give the jockeys who suffer head injuries the best science has to offer, and an important first step towards that goal is to generate data from which an appropriate management protocol can be developed,” said Mattacola. “This project will leverage the full resources and knowledge base of UK’s Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI) and the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC) to help create the first national protocol for concussion management in jockeys.”
Carl Mattacola (UK Now Photo)
For the study, jockeys will undergo a Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT 3) test to develop a baseline score so that pre- and post-fall responses can be compared. The SCAT3 is an instrument used to assess sign/symptoms, physical, and cognitive function for concussion. A specialized health care provider trained in concussion assessment and sport injury will be available at each track to perform the assessments.
Mattacola said the jockeys will be required to have an active account with the Jockey Health Information System, which stores medical and injury information on riders and will serve as a database for the study.
By developing a comprehensive concussion management protocol for jockeys, racing is following the lead of other major sports such as the NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB, NCAA, and NASCAR and international horse racing authorities such as the British Horseracing Authority, the Irish Turf Club, and the FEI (international show jumping).
“The pilot study and resulting concussion management protocol will finally bridge the gap that exists between horse racing and other major sports to further protect our human athletes,” said Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild. “We would like to thank all of the industry organizations that contributed to this important initiative.”
The list of supporting organizations incudes the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Turfway Park, Ellis Park, Kentucky Downs, KTA-KOTB, The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup, TOBA, NTRA and the National HBPA.
A licensed athletic trainer, Mattacola received his bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and his Masters and PhD degrees in sports medicine from the University of Virginia. His research has focused on factors that relate to athletic injuries and rehabilitation.
Jockeys’ Guild Inc., the organization representing professional jockeys in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the United States, was founded in May 1940 and has approximately 1,270 members, including active, retired and disabled jockeys. The purpose is to protect jockeys, strive to achieve a safer racing environment, to obtain improved insurance and other benefits for members, and to monitor developments in local, state and federal laws affecting the racing industry and, in particular, the jockeys. More information can be found at jockeysguild.com and facebook.com/jockeysguild.
The University of Kentucky was founded in 1865 and its College of Health Sciences (CHS) was founded in 1966. The SMRI was launched last year with a $4.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to support injury prevention and performance optimization in the U.S. Special Forces, with an aim to incorporate applicable strategies for athletes of all ages.
The University of North Georgia (UNG) is one of three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II schools to recently join a national initiative that aims to prevent, diagnose and treat concussions.
The $30 million initiative pairs the NCAA and the Department of Defense (DOD), and now includes 30 institutions of higher education across the country. The collective is titled the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium. The nine recent additions announced earlier this month — including UNG — will begin adding their data to the study this summer.
“UNG is honored to be chosen as a participant in this landmark concussion study,” said Director of Athletics Lindsay Reeves. “Student-athlete welfare is paramount in our mission at UNG, so we are glad that we can assist with this important research initiative and return-to-play protocols.”
To participate in the study, all UNG student-athletes receive a full preseason evaluation for concussions with follow-up checks in the event of an injury. The collected data will be sent to a team of researchers for tracking and study.
So far, more than 25 million data points from 16,000 student-athletes have been collected from the 21 institutions already participating. With the nine additional sites, researchers estimate that more than 25,000 student-athletes will participate during the three-year study.
“The important expansion of the CARE Consortium to include a diversity of Division I, Division II, Division III and historically black college and university participants further solidifies this study as a groundbreaking initiative,” said Brian Hainline, NCAA chief medical officer. “It is a remarkable collaborative and inclusive effort.”
The NCAA and DOD have dedicated $30 million to the concussion study and to an initiative to spur culture change regarding concussion. Participating schools receive a portion of that funding to cover the cost of carrying out the research.
According to Matt Daniel, head athletic trainer at UNG, national interest in concussion treatment and prevention has gained momentum in the past few years due to leaps in knowledge and understanding of how the injuries present in athletes.
“Concussions are very difficult to evaluate and identify; each situation, injury and athlete is different. Recovery rates are also different for each person and each event,” Daniel said. “The brain heals very slowly, so it is critical that we prevent or correctly diagnose concussions as often as possible. We are becoming more educated about how severely effects can present and how they can impact the individual. The more we as athletic trainers and medical professionals learn, the more our society learns and becomes interested in supporting these initiatives.”
Daniel said that problems after a concussion occurs can present hours or days after the injury happens. In an effort to protect UNG student-athletes, one portion of the university’s concussion protocol includes online cognitive baseline testing, to help athletic trainers establish how the university’s student-athletes function when they are injury-free. This gives them data for comparison if a student-athlete suffers a head injury.
“If someone is injured and we must do a sideline examination, we have a return-to-play protocol that mandates the student-athlete must undergo more cognitive tests to make sure they meet or exceed the baseline scores that he or she achieved before beginning the season. We are very thorough in our examinations; we also have a team neurologist 20 minutes away in case an emergency ever arises.”
Numbers vary, but UNG athletics typically diagnoses about 10 concussions per year among its more than 225 student-athletes. According to data collected by the CARE consortium, an estimated yearly average of 10,500 college athletes have sustained concussions for the past five years, and more than 320,000 brain injuries have been reported among American service members since 2000.
High Point University student Emma Zuk, a junior athletic training major, was an invited speaker at the 41st annual Southeast Athletic Trainers’ Association Clinical Symposium on March 11-12 in Atlanta. Her presentation was a part of the professional programming for athletic trainers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Titled “Understanding the Relationship Between Static Posture and Dynamic Motion: Clinical Implications for Increased Risk of Knee Injuries,” Zuk’s presentation focused on how factors of the hip contribute to knee injuries, particularly in youth athletes. Research in this area has previously been limited.
Zuk has been collaborating with Dr. Yum Nguyen, associate professor in the Department of Athletic Training, for more than two years. Working with a youth soccer organization in Wilmington, Zuk and Nguyen are collecting data on young athletes as they mature and analyzing the results to develop intervention plans that could potentially lower the risk of ACL injuries.
“The more data we can collect, the clearer the results will be to help with a potential intervention program,” Zuk says. “The opportunity to present at this conference has continued to broaden my experience and future connections. I am extremely grateful to work with Dr. Nguyen and all of the opportunities that have come with participating in research.”
Zuk plans to present her latest work in this area at the National Athletic Trainers’ Association meeting in June. Nguyen says the opportunity to be featured at professional meetings is usually reserved for established researchers and clinicians who have a reputation for expertise in their field.
“Receiving an invitation to present at this professional meeting is an honor and a reflection of Emma’s research accomplishments in the field of sports medicine,” Nguyen says. “I am proud of all Emma’s accomplishments and this invited presentation is evidence that her work and expertise is recognized across the nation.”
It could be because a player doesn’t want to let the team down by stepping off the field.
It could be the fear of getting pulled out of a big game.
Or it could be the pervasive misunderstanding about the severity of an injury to the head.
Whatever the reason, concussion reporting rates across the nation have hardly budged, despite a surge in policy changes, educational efforts and intensive research on the topic, a group of Northern Arizona University researchers said on Wednesday. The four professors, who come from NAU’s psychology department and its athletic training education program, are trying to tackle the issue from another angle.
Thanks to a $400,000 grant from the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense, the four women will examine how organizational culture influences concussion reporting and then test different strategies to boost reporting rates.
“It’s a national epidemic with the concussion issue and it’s not being solved with education,” said Debbie Craig, an athletic training education professor. “The NCAA and the Department of Defense had the foresight to say, ‘If these aren’t working then it’s most likely due to culture, so how do we change that culture?’”
NAU is one of eight universities that received grant money to research “How to spur changes in the culture surrounding concussion,” according the grant description.
The Flagstaff group’s study involves visiting four NCAA Division I football programs five times each over the span of two and a half years. They aren’t releasing the names of the schools because the anonymity allowed them to gain access to the universities and helps preserve the accuracy of their results, the researchers said.
The first visit to each university will be spent conducting player surveys, interviewing coaches and observing practices, games and places where the athletes spend time like locker rooms and meeting rooms. The women also will run association tests to gain insight into players’ subconscious beliefs about things like big hits on the field or head injuries, said Ann Huffman, an associate professor in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the W. A. Franke College of Business and chair of the university’s intercollegiate athletics committee.
Pilot research the researchers already did in Arizona found that there are multiple reasons for low concussion reporting rates. Those include misconceptions among athletes about how hurt they are, a sense of brotherhood that discourages reporting on a teammate who looks concussed, and a misunderstanding that a person has to lose consciousness to experience a concussion.
In fact, only 10 percent of concussed cases lose consciousness, said Monica Lininger, an assistant professor in the athletic training education program.
After gathering that baseline data on concussion culture within each program, the NAU research team will develop specialized intervention strategies for each school, then sit down with representatives from each program to see which suggestions they like and what other ideas they may have to address the problem. Research has shown that allowing participant input, instead of imposing the ideas brainstormed by researchers, facilitates creative ideas and buy-in, said Heidi Wayment, a professor of social psychology who has years of athletic experience as a college and professional basketball player.
A possible intervention might be identifying one or two influential people within the team and working with each individual to lead by example in terms of taking concussions seriously and reporting them, Craig said. Another idea might be removing photos or posters that appear to celebrate violent play on the field, Lininger said.
Suggestions for changes may also involve piggybacking on the positive values, like hard work, camaraderie and sacrifice, that athletes and teams already carry, Wayment said.
“It will be helpful for us to understand what motivates them to do this very very exhilarating and difficult work,” she said. “Maybe some of those same values can help nudge behavior in a way that might help them with their own safety and health and their teammates.”
The final three visits to each university, which will kick off in the fall of 2017, will be a pre-intervention assessment, a post-intervention assessment to look for changes in behavior or in the players’ environment, and then a visit to present the study’s results and ask for feedback.
The women’s hope is that their research will provide useful insights for not only college football players but other athletes and age groups as well. Ideally, their recommendations will inspire athletic policy changes among institutions, conferences and even the NCAA, they said.
“We can do research that makes a difference,” Huffman said.
The long-term impact of concussions is widely known but many athletes still fear opening up about head injuries.
NAU interdisciplinary researchers have been awarded a $400,000 grant to study how organizational culture relates to concussion reporting among athletes, coaches and staff.
Research team members Debbie Craigand Monica Lininger, athletic training education professors, and Ann Huffman and Heidi Wayment, psychological science professors, have been awarded the national Mind Matters Challenge grant for their proposal, “Changing the Culture of Concussion Reporting: A Cultural Analysis and Implementation Model.”
“Concussions are unique in the field of athletic injuries because the decision whether to keep playing is less clear,” said Craig, who is director of NAU’s athletic training education program. “Everyone must believe that it is OK to report concussions. This will be a significant cultural shift from the current American football culture. Our goal is to facilitate that shift.”
Wayment said this project is a tremendous opportunity given how rapidly public awareness on head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE, is increasing.
“As we know from research in health psychology, just ‘knowing’ that a behavior can negatively impact one’s health is not sufficient for change,” she said. “I am especially excited about our interdisciplinary approach: we will be looking very specifically at multiple factors that impact athletes’ decision-making processes. My colleagues and I each bring a different theoretical perspective to the research, and we are excited to be working together.”
The objective of the project is to investigate the organizational, athletic, individual and interpersonal factors that affect concussion-reporting behavior and develop intervention strategies that increase student-athlete safety and well-being. The research study, funded by the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense, will be conducted over two and a half years and involve four different NCAA Division I football programs.
Allison Klapperich, a Saydel athletic trainer, needs to ask questions and look for symptoms of head trauma.
“Usually they’re pretty honest with me because their heads (are) hurting pretty bad,” she said.
But sometimes, Klapperich said, athletes want to get back in the game so much they don’t reveal everything.
One professor at Simpson College is hoping to be part of a medical breakthrough when it comes to detecting concussions.
Mike Hadden, an athletic trainer and professor of sports science at Simpson, wants to start clinical trials on an instant concussion test.
It takes a drop of the athlete’s blood. If it detects the proteins that release into the bloodstream after a concussion, it will come back positive within a minute, like a pregnancy or blood sugar test.
“Hopefully within two hours of this concussion, find the protein, take their blood, find the protein, study it and see if it can be a valid and reliable bio-marker for a concussion,” Hadden said.
Simpson has applied for grant money to start testing concussed athletes next year.
“Put some blood on here, then mix it with some fluid that will actually react with the protein,” Hadden said.
The Indianola College is just one of dozens of institutions around the country trying to find a way to make diagnosing concussions more clear-cut and conclusive.
“It’s a race. It’s an arms to race to see who can find the concussion sideline tests,” Hadden said.
“That would kind of take the guesswork out of if they’re not showing symptoms. Do they have a concussion or not? We’re going to see it in the next five minutes,” Klapperich said.