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Elon helps teen athletes monitor for concussions

Faculty & students are working with a Burlington high school football team to assess when players have recovered from head injuries.

Senior Kelsey Evans, an undergraduate researcher in the Department of Exercise Science and member of the Elon women's basketball team, administers a balance test to a high school athlete.


An Elon University research team is helping a local high school football program this fall by tracking measurements such as balance, memory and cognition in players so that coaches better know when an athlete has recovered from a concussion.

Faculty and students in the Department of Exercise Science and the Doctor of Physical Therapy program worked this month with football players from Williams High School in Burlington, N.C., to launch the “Elon BrainCARE” program, which stands for Concussion Assessment, Research and Education.

Players visited the Francis Center on Haggard Avenue to take part in educational sessions about the detriments of concussions in student-athletes as well as the symptoms of concussion, and they underwent a series of balance and cognitive tests commonly used to monitor changes in brain function.

Memory and cognitive assessments were among the tasks that football players completed in an Aug. 18 visit to campus.

The measurements will serve as a guide for when athletes suffer head injuries. If balance or mental acuity veer from baseline marks, coaches will know more recovery time is needed. “Our hope is to eventually be able to help all the football teams in the county,” said Professor Eric Hall in the Department of Exercise Science. “This is a way for Elon to give back to the community.”

Hall has been working with his colleagues in the Exercise Science department on concussion research among college athletes. At the same time, Steve Bailey, a professor of physical therapy education and a former lacrosse coach at Williams, had been reaching out to the Alamance Burlington School System to measure interest in a partnership in an effort to forge stronger ties between Elon and the community.

“This is something the community needs,” Bailey said, “and these tests are becoming the standard for care.”

Associate Professor Caroline Ketcham administers a balance test to measure baseline readings for a member of the Williams High School football team in Burlington, N.C.

Football-related concussions have received heightened media and public policy attention in recent years as the long-term effects of head injuries are becoming better understood. Many retired professional football players have sued the National Football League over concussions incurred during their careers, and a growing number of universities and college football conferences have launched their own studies into the injury.

“Concussions are a big issue in football,” said Williams Head Coach David Green. “The more awareness we have of them, the better off we’ll be. It’s great of Elon to put this in place."

The following faculty are currently involved in Elon BrainCARE: Professors Eric Hall, Stephen Bailey, Stephen Folger and Paul Miller; Associate Professors Caroline Ketcham and Wally Bixby; Assistant Professor Srikant Vallabhajosula and Adjunct Assistant Professor Kenneth Barnes, who is also the sports medicine consultant for the Alamance Burlington School System.

Eric Townsend,
8/27/2012 9:43 PM