Protecting the head with more than helmets
Texas State University researchers at the Biomechanics and Sports Medicine Lab are working to change how players, coaches and families view sports-related concussion (SRC) risks.
Assistant Professor of Athletic Training Missy Fraser specializes in understanding SRCs. She is using new technology and techniques to develop better ways to evaluate suspected concussions and, hopefully, to give athletes personalized estimates of their risk.
“Every athlete is different,” Fraser says. “A blow that results in a concussion for one person is just a routine hit to another player. In football, players experience thousands of impacts over their careers that don't lead to injury.”
Relatively little historical data exists for researchers to build on, since SRC in sports only began to draw widespread attention in the last 15 to 20 years, Fraser says.
To collect new data on how and when SRCs occur, Fraser and the Texas State football team are using accelerometers — headbands with embedded sensors that measure the force and duration of impacts and the speed and direction of players’ head movement.
Combined with baseline data recorded for every student-athlete at Texas State on balance, cognition, emotion and vision, the accelerometer data can provide useful information for evaluating an injured player's biomechanics to help find ways athletes can minimize the risk of future injuries.
“The heart of our mission is to have all of the research we do be clinically relevant. We want our work to directly benefit the athletes, coaches and athletic trainers,” Fraser says.
From the Center for Disease Control:
- Up to 45 million American youth participate in organized youth sports and recreational activities.
- Across all age groups, experts estimate there are 1.6 million sports-related concussions per year.