By Gaby Arancibia
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – The NCAA and the Department of Defense have teamed up to launch a concussion awareness challenge designed to change the culture and attitudes of college athletes and service members — through research and education.
“We need to create a culture on every sideline and in every training room that encourages immediate, full reporting and treatment,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline at a panel discussion last month at George Washington University.
As part of a Mind Matters Challenge, up to 10 research grants of $400,000 each will be awarded to colleges and universities and others studying factors that could help to change the behaviors of student-athletes. In addition, cash prizes of up to $100,000 will be awarded to groups and organizations that create compelling educational materials targeting student-athletes and others at-risk for concussions.
The challenge is part of a broader $30 million NCAA-DOD initiative to improve concussion awareness and treatment. Twelve universities have already agreed to participate, said Amy Dunham, managing director of communications for the NCAA. They include Princeton University, UCLA, the U.S. Air Force Academy; state schools from Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The alliance hopes to enroll 25,000 male and female NCAA student-athletes across 16 universities, including all four military academies, by the end of the year, she said.
Research will look at the patterns, causes and effects of concussions for participating student-athletes. It will look into an athlete’s personal concussion history, academic history and family history of concussions, among other points, Dunham said.
Participants will receive a comprehensive pre-season concussion evaluation and will be monitored in the event of an injury.
“We are doing detailed studies that not only look into football, but men’s and women’s lacrosse, soccer and ice hockey,” said Hainline. “We don’t talk enough about women and concussions, but we need to.”
Dr. Eliot Sorel, co-chair of the National Council on Youth Sports Safety, said the goal was not to scare youths away from sports. “We want our kids not to fear being involved in sports [because], we are at the moment on a fear rampage, unfortunately,” he said. “We need to reach a balance between the fear factors and the fun elements of sports.”
Lauren Chase, a graduating senior on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University, said she hoped the initiatives will help fellow student-athletes to feel more comfortable reporting their injuries so that they can get proper treatment — and then share their stories with others.
Chase said she suffered a third concussion before the start of the 2013-14 season, after getting elbowed in the head during basketball practice. She said the concussion and the accompanying headaches left her sitting on the bench for a year.
“No one can see a concussion, so you have to be honest with yourself so that you can help your trainers and be able to overcome the situation,” Chase said.