Study at Stout seeks to shine new light on head impacts

By Derek Woellner —

A multidisciplinary group of 11 students is conducting groundbreaking research on repetitive non-concussive head impacts.

The students, of which include Cognitive Science, Psychology, Applied Science Biotechnology and Physical Therapy majors, are seeking to find out whether multiple impacts to the head can cause brain damage, even if those impacts don’t result in a concussion. The group is working under the guidance of faculty from the Psychology, Physics and Scho3 (1)ol of Education departments.

Multiple concussions have been shown to cause brain disease. The research being conducted here at University of Wisconsin–Stout is trying to determine whether similar detrimental effects can be caused by non-concussive hits.

In order to determine if non-concussive hits can cause damage, data gathered from football players will be compared to data from players who played non-contact sports. Volunteers will be tested on their attention, short-term memory and spatial memory. The test involves two sections, one that will monitor eye movement and one that will measure brain activity. To eliminate extraneous variables, volunteers must fit within a certain criteria. They need to be college freshmen, and they need to have played at least three years of high school football, or one of the non-contact sports: basketball, baseball and volleyball. Soccer was considered, but was ruled out because of the impacts made when heading the ball.

The results of the study could change how sub-concussive head impacts are viewed. Coaches might need to modify their practice strategies based on the findings to better protect their players from brain damage.

Freshmen who are interested in participating in the study can email Nate Olinger at olingern4636@my.uwstout.edu. Participants will receive $20 for completing both sections of the test.

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