E-Net News

Elon professors receive grant for concussion study

A team of Elon University researchers will examine the effects of concussions in student-athletes using a grant of nearly $17,000 awarded this month by the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.

Dr. Kenneth Barnes serves as principal investigator on the study.

Their yearlong collaborative project, “Influence of Concussion History on Cognitive Performance in College Student Athletes: A Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Examination,” will recruit 200 study participants from a cross section of men’s and women’s collegiate sports.

Researchers plan to measure verbal and visual memory, processing speed, reaction time and impulse control, as well as word discrimination and attention span, to determine if any measures – behavioral, electrophysiological or sensory discrimination – can better distinguish between athletes who have suffered concussions and those who have not.

Dr. Kenneth Barnes, an adjunct assistant professor of exercise science, director of sports medicine at Elon, and a sports medicine physician at Kernodle Clinic, serves as principal investigator on the project. He’s joined by exercise science colleagues Eric Hall, Wally Bixby and Paul Miller, and by professor Stephen Folger in the Department of Physical Therapy Education.

“Concussions are difficult to diagnosis and manage in a clinical setting with every patient having a unique presentation, differing symptoms, and varying levels of impairment and recovery,” Barnes said. “When trying to answer questions for my patients, I use the analogy that concussions are like a glacier. What we know is above the water, but what we don’t know is below the water.

“We’re getting much better than we were 10 or 20 years ago, but we still have a long way to go.”

Clockwise from top left: Associate professor Eric Hall, professor Paul Miller, associate professor Wally Bixby and professor Stephen Folger

The grant will assist with the purchase of software and technological measuring devices, as well as a summer stipend for investigators and funding for undergraduate research assistants, plus other supplies.

Concussions have received heightened attention in recent years from the NCAA, Barnes said, and the multidisciplinary approach to their work can bring perspective to the problem that one person alone may lack.

“I’m excited about the collaboration aspect to it,” he said. “We all have unique training. After an extensive literature review, there are no other published studies that have combined these three different ways to look at concussions.”

The team hopes to present its findings by mid 2012.

Eric Townsend,
2/21/2011 4:24 PM