ARLINGTON - University of Texas at Arlington kinesiology professors are kicking off a new study that may help area high school athletes play safer and will provide useful data on the ongoing debate about how best to manage concussions.
Jacob Resch, assistant professor of kinesiology, is the principal investigator for the study. The research team includes Cindy Trowbridge, UT Arlington associate professor of kinesiology, physicians and certified athletic trainers from Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, a neuropsychologist from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Oregon-based Neurocom International Inc. The team intends to help local private schools implement the same concussion management protocol UT Arlington uses in its athletic programs, Resch said.
To start, researchers plan to conduct baseline testing on about 600 athletes over the next few months – including ImPACT™, a computerized neuropsychological test, assessment of any symptoms and balance testing using a highly advanced NeuroCom SMART Balance Master. Athletes who suffer a concussion over the next year will be asked to return to UT Arlington for subsequent evaluations.
Researchers and physicians will analyze the athlete’s condition post-concussion in relation to baseline testing and provide valuable information to their certified athletic trainers, family or team physicians, parents and coaches in regards to how soon the athlete should return to play. The clinical research will help define concussion recovery while providing a service to the schools involved in the project.
“Everything we’re doing here is based on research,” Resch said. “Ultimately, we’re assisting area athletic trainers in safeguarding against an early return to play based on the outcomes of multiple tests. We want to help the athletes and we want to help the athletic trainers – that’s foremost.”
Emergency departments in the U.S. treat an estimated 135,000 sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, in children and youth ages 5 to 18 each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also says children and teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than adults.
The concussion recovery period and current concussion protocols at every level of athletics have become a topic of increasing public attention. In September, the U.S. House Education and Labor committee held a hearing during which members heard from athletes and their families about the affect of repeated concussions. Recently, the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas public school sports, tightened its concussion guidelines to prohibit athletes with concussions from coming back to play within 24 hours and requiring a medical professional’s clearance.
Resch, who has worked with high school and collegiate athletes specifically in the area of concussion management, emphasizes the value of utilizing multiple tests to evaluate such injury.
“There is no stand alone test to evaluate concussion,” he said. “For instance, an athlete who reports being symptom-free may still be experiencing cognitive deficits.”
Trowbridge has worked with athletes at the college level for more than 15 years. She said researchers want to build understanding of the effects of concussion in pediatric athletes, particularly with injuries that do not necessarily include a loss of consciousness. The research team also wants to educate local athletes and their families about the affects of repeated concussions and serious consequences to returning to play too quickly.
Dr. Damond Blueitt, primary care and sports medicine physician at Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, said Texas Health Resources looks forward to collaborating with UT Arlington and UT Southwestern on the study.
“We have supported area schools with clinical expertise using the ImPACT™ neuropsychological testing tool and believe we can contribute to the safety and well-being of area athletes as a result of this collaborative effort,” Dr. Blueitt said.
Jon F. Peters, vice president and general manager at Neurocom International, Inc., said the company is confident that the UT Arlington research will contribute positively to the knowledge about athletic injuries.
“NeuroCom is pleased to continue collaborating with Dr. Resch in his research into the effective assessment and management of sports-related concussions,” Peters said. “His work will be instrumental in protecting the overall health of student athletes and identifying when it is safe to return an athlete to play.”
Resch’s work is representative of the work underway at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate research institution of nearly 33,000 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.