By Professor Kim Dorsch
I teach Applied Sports Psychology at the University of Regina, and I also perform research with the university’s Motivation for Active Living Laboratory. We were fortunate enough to get significant funding for a large brain training program, applicable to the general population, but with a stronger focus on sports. A major program we’re undertaking is looking into sports-related concussions with around 350 USport athletes in various sports.
The Concussion Testing Problem
Concussion is an important area of research as it is a continuing problem, particularly in impact related sports. A big concern with contemporary assessments is the human psychology factor. Specifically, a lot of athletes are passionate about their sport, so there are serious concerns about them not reporting concussions, or purposefully fudging baseline assessments.
In fact, it may now be quite common that athletes deliberately get low scores on some of their mTBI baseline tests, so that if they do get a brain injury it’s not so difficult to retest at what appears to be their normative level.
This is one of the reasons we chose to use NeuroTracker for our study, because it is seen as a tool for performance enhancement, most athletes really want to do well at it to improve. We encourage them to approach it competitively to get the best scores they can. Also it helps that they seem to enjoy it.
Having study participants asking us when they can come back, rather than the other way around, is certainly refreshing from a researcher’s perspective!
We are using NeuroTracker as part of a larger battery of pre- and post-concussion tests, including neuropsychological and cerebrovascular, which will allow us to compare results with brain blood flow and brain oxygenation rates. We expect this collaboration will bring new insights into mTBI related changes in cognitive function because we are using advanced brain physiology measures, which have just started to become recognized as important, and pairing them with a cognitive-perceptual task that stimulates brain function at a high level in a way that’s relevant to sports performance.
This combination of physiological and functional – what’s going on inside the brain and how it’s behaving – could become a key approach for getting a grip on the complex effects of concussions.
Obviously, we are hoping for minimal concussion events with our participants. For those that do get injured, we also look at what happens during the recovery process, which can vary tremendously from one athlete to another, or with the type of concussion. We are interested in seeing if NeuroTracker specifically can be helpful with the rehabilitation phase, particularly for those athletes with prolonged symptoms.
A Helping Hand
Athletes with severe concussions not only have their sports and academic careers affected, but quite dramatic reductions in quality of life are possible for months at a time. Anything that can help reduce the time or symptoms during recovery could be very helpful for a lot of people. As far as we know, we are the only university in the country going to these lengths to keep our athletes safe and healthy from concussion-related injury.
Professor Kim Dorsch
Kim Dorsch is Professor (Sport psychology) Associate Member in the Kinesiology department at University of Regina, and directs many advanced research projects involving NeuroTracker. Previously we featured a blog on some of the great work going on at the University of Regina, you can read it here.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more about concussions, check out some of our other blogs!
Evolving the Treatment of Concussions (Expert Corner)
NeuroTracker: A Technology Worth Shouting About! (Expert Corner)
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