Eric Hall targets misperceptions about concussions in 2017 Distinguished Scholar Lecture

Hall, professor of exercise science and faculty athletics representative, delivered the Distinguished Scholar Lecture on Feb. 2 in LaRose Digital Theatre.

Drawing from his extensive research and scholarship, Eric Hall debunked many of the popular misperceptions about concussions — who is most at risk, how it impacts the body and how a person recovers.

Hall, professor of exercise science and faculty athletics representative, provided these insights into the latest concussion research and his long-time focus on the relationship between mental health and physical activity during the 2017 Distinguished Scholar Lecture on Thursday night. Hall received the Distinguished Scholar Award in spring 2016 in recognition of his contributions to research and scholarship. 

For instance, many believe there are hard and fast rules for recovering from a concussion, and in doing so ignore the many variables that can impact how a person experiences the injury, and how long it takes to come back from it. The “three strikes” belief — that a person should retire from sports after experiencing three concussions, doesn’t take into account that variability, Hall said. 

“There really is no predicting how many concussions a person can sustain before they need to retire,” Hall explained to the crowd at the lecture. “Three concussions in 10 years is different from three concussions in one or two years. And if you can recover within that typical seven- to 10-day window or sooner, a doctor may not be as concerned.”

Hall said he began his study of concussions almost as a side project following time spent researching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he completed work on his master’s and doctoral degrees. That was nine years ago, with concussion research and education now occupying the majority of his research focus.  

Hall initiated about eight years ago a collaboration with Elon’s Athletics Department that included performing baseline concussions testing on athletes that can be invaluable if a student-athlete is injured. That ongoing testing also provided Hall and his fellow researchers a large pool of data to hep delve into the impact of concussions on cognitive function, and has assisted in the development of “return-to-play” and “return-to-learn” guidelines for those who sustain concussions.

Those efforts led to the creation of the Elon BrainCARE Research Institute, which Hall co-directs with Caroline Ketcham, associate professor of exercise science. The institute creates an umbrella under which to pursue a variety of research interests as well as collaborations with other academics and clinicians, with the broader goal to also educate the public about concussions. 

Throughout his lecture Thursday, Hall outlined various misperceptions about concussions as a way to highlight the research he’s undertaken both with professors at Elon and elsewhere, with a particular emphasis on the work he’s completed in collaboration with Elon students while survey as mentor. That reflected his ability, as noted in Ketcham’s introduction of Hall, to “bring out the best in the people he works with” and to “take the time and effort to cultivate relationships.” 

Hall noted his work with Kayla Harvey ’16 that looked at how demographic and medical history factors might impact the recovery time from a concussion, with that research that’s soon to be published debunking the perception that young men are more susceptible to concussions than young women. The research also indicated a potential link between ADHD and recovery time, with the findings suggesting that those that suffer from ADHD could take significantly longer to recover from a concussion. 

“You have to know the person you’re talking about when you determine a treatment for a concussion,” Hall said. “You can’t make general assumptions.”

Hall said going forward, he is particularly interested in research findings that indicate athletes that suffer from concussions may become more prone to other physical injuries, such ankle, knee or leg injuries, in the 90 days following recovery. 

Hall detailed the future direction of Elon BrainCARE’s efforts during the talk, noting the upcoming 4th Annual Elon BrainCARE Symposium. Among the continuing focus areas for the research institute include the influence of active rehabilitation on recovery, a better understanding of the theoretical constructs behind concussion disclosure behavior and the examination of the long-term consequences of concussions and playing contact sports. 

Many of those topics will be covered at the symposium to be held in the Moseley Center on April 6