George Egan (1st year MSAT student) with GoPro Camera.
IPad and Shockbox helmet sensors used.
OGDEN — The Winter Dew Tour may not be stopping here anymore, but that hasn’t prevented a group of Weber State University students from continuing a research project that could help protect extreme snow sports athletes from a common, debilitating injury.
In American sports, football is king, and concussions have been at the forefront of the discussion the past few years. But little or no research has been done regarding concussions in snow sports, and that’s where the team from Weber State is stepping in.
The project started last year, when the athletic training and nursing departments at the university saw an opportunity to provide students with real-world experience dealing with sports injuries. At the Dew Tour stop at Snowbasin, several WSU students were brought on board to help respond to athletes injured in the competition, and to collect data that could help in the development of technologies to minimize or prevent concussions in the future.
Their multifaceted research includes blood work, cognitive tests, video monitoring and most recently, a new sensor attached to athletes’ helmets that measures the impact they sustain when they crash.
While the bulk of the recent focus on concussions has centered around football players, competitive skiers and snowboarders are likely to suffer concussions at higher rates and more forceful impacts, said Matt Donahue, an assistant professor at WSU and one of the project’s leaders.
“Extreme snow sport athletes compete at high speeds, get lots of air, and they come down on a solid, icy surface,” Donahue said. “That’s a recipe for frequent and severe concussions.”
At Snowbasin last year, students drew blood from about 50 athletes before the competition to establish a baseline. This season, the WSU team traveled to the Dew Tour stop in Breckenridge, Colo., to continue their long-term research.
“What we’re looking for is differences in biological markers in the brain before and after a crash,” Donahue said. “These athletes have probably suffered multiple concussions, but they have rarely been properly diagnosed or properly cared for afterward.”
The research at the Dew Tour is contributing to the first-of-its-kind, four-year longitudinal study at WSU investigating overall brain health in college athletes, from incoming freshmen to graduating seniors. The study uses biomarkers to identify possible brain decay and memory loss in athletes who participate in contact sports throughout their college careers.
New to the project this season is a sensor called the Shockbox, which is attached to a helmet and measures the force of impact to the head when an athlete crashes.
“The helmet sensors are rigged to go off at a certain threshold, not just a tap or a bump,” said Tiffany Vlahos, a senior in athletic training who is assisting in the research. “Green means it’s a mild hit and not really serious. If it’s yellow we’ll let the athlete know we picked up a collision and then check for signs of a concussion and determine if further assessments are needed.”
So far, use of the Shockbox has been very limited, as ski and snowboard athletes have been reluctant to wear it during competition. Donahue said the research team hopes to expand its use to other sports where concussions are common, such as hockey.
While it’s too early to come to any definitive conclusions, he said the team is starting to home in on potential biomarkers that cause concussion symptoms and affect brain function.
“There just aren’t enough pure numbers yet to say ‘this is the biomarker we’re looking for’,” he said. “We need to do this over the course of a number of years — then we can start to narrow down what we’re looking for.”
One major obstacle to the ongoing research is funding. The project received an internal grant from WSU to get things started, and participants are looking for funding from any source they can, including private partners.
“We are running out of funding, but it’s essential this research continues if we are to change attitudes about high-impact youth sports and helmet requirements,” said Jordan Hamson-Utley, assistant professor in athletic training. “It’s not just the athlete who is sidelined for a concussion we’re concerned about — it’s the athlete who takes repeated, undetected blows to the head.
“We can’t repair the damage, but we can stop it from happening.”
MSAT Graduate's Pro-Hockey Team wins the
2012 Western Conference Championship!
Quentin Higgins, a 2012 graduate of the MSAT Program, serves as the Head Athletic Trainer for the Las Vegas Wranglers Professional Ice Hocky Team. Picture above is Quentin (right) with Geoff Paukovich, Center for the Las Vegas Wranglers (left).
Students Study Concussions at Winter Dew Tour
December 7, 2012
OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University students will ask
extreme snow sports athletes to let them monitor their epic crashes,
wipeouts and wrecks at the Winter Dew Tour at Breckenridge, Colo., Dec.
Graduate and undergraduate students in athletic training and nursing
are attending the competition to gather novel research on concussions
related to extreme snow sports through helmet sensors, video monitoring
and blood draws.
“This offers great exposure for our students who will be involved in
the event from beginning to end,” said Matt Donahue, assistant professor
in athletic training. “They’ll have unlimited access to world-class
athletes, starting with a voluntary blood draw at registration.”
Students will collect baseline blood samples before competition
starts and then collect them again if the athlete experiences a blow
resulting in a concussion. The samples will be stored and frozen and
then later sent to a lab to be analyzed. “What we’re looking for is
differences in biological markers in the brain before and after a
crash,” Donahue said. “As far as I know, there has not been any research
done on concussions and snow sports.”
Donahue said most athletes don’t take “ringing their bell” as
seriously as they should, even though concussions are linked to death,
memory problems and everyday ability to function.
In addition to the blood draws, students will outfit 14 athletes with
helmet sensors that are paired to a smart phone or iPad, alerting
athletic trainers when a crash occurs.
Helmet sensors have been used in the military and are gaining
popularity among parents of youth football players. They’re an effective
and affordable way to monitor hits to the head. The device attached to
the top of a helmet uses a wireless transmission to alert medical staff
and athletic trainers when a hit is too hard. “One of the biggest
problems of concussions is under reporting,” Donahue said. “These
athletes have probably suffered multiple concussions, but they have
rarely been properly diagnosed or properly cared for afterward.”
Tiffany Vlahos, a senior in athletic training, will assist in the
research. “The helmet sensors are rigged to go off at a certain
threshold, not just a tap or a bump,” Vlahos said. “Green means it’s a
mild hit and not really serious. If it’s yellow we’ll let the athlete
know we picked up a collision and then check for signs of a concussion
and determine if further assessments are needed.”
Donahue doesn’t know what kind of forces they will encounter but
expects them to be much higher than in football where the bulk of
concussions studies have been done. “Extreme snow sport athletes compete
at high speeds, get lots of air, and they come down on a solid, icy
surface,” Donahue said. “Our students will likely witness high-velocity
injures that are very related to the Utah area.”
Research shows a concussion is more likely when the impact is at 90
gravitational forces or above. To put it in perspective, turns during
high-speed car racing produce just five G-forces.
Students will also mount video cameras at strategic locations around
the event site to document all crashes that result in an injury or
concussion. By monitoring the footage, they can determine how athletes
crash, where they land or if there is a concussion or any other injury.
The research at the Dew Tour will contribute to the
first-of-its-kind, four-year longitudinal study at WSU that is
investigating overall brain health in college athletes from incoming
freshmen to graduating seniors. The study uses biomarkers to identify
possible brain decay and memory loss in athletes who participate in
contact sports throughout their college career.
“We are running out of funding, but it’s essential this research
continues if we are to change attitudes about high-impact youth sports
and helmet requirements,” said Jordan Hamson-Utley, assistant professor
in athletic training. “It’s not just the athlete who is sidelined for a
concussion we’re concerned about, it’s the athlete who takes repeated,
undetected blows to the head. We can’t repair the damage, but we can
stop it from happening.”
Master of Science in Athletic Training Student in NFL Internship with the Jacksonville Jaguars
September 14, 2012
JJ Stroud completed a paid, summer internship with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was also awarded the NFL PFATS (Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society) Minority Scholarship. JJ was nominated for the scholarship by the Jacksonville Jaguars staff.
2nd Year MSAT Student, JJ Stroud, with Jacksonville Jaguars Linebacker #52 Daryl Smith.
JJ on game day at the Baltimore Ravens stadium.
JJ with Jacksonville Jaguars AT Staff, Justin Bland and Rod Scott
Master of Science in Athletic Training Student in Minor League
August 8, 2012
Laramie (Brock) Francis - 2nd year MSAT student (Front row, far left)
Cole Libby - Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training - Class of 2012
August 2, 2012
Master of Science in Athletic Training Students and AT Faculty present research posters at 2012 National Athletic Trainers' Association Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposia, St. Louis, MO
June 28, 2012
Adrian Eads - Class of 2013
Andi Pigeon, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS - Class of 2012
Matt Brinkerhoff, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, EMT - Class of 2012
Matt Brinkerhoff, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, EMT - Class of 2012 (2nd poster!)
Mike McMahon, MS, LAT, ATC (Class of 2012) and Dr. Jordan Utley (AT Faculty)
Dr. Matt Donahue - AT Faculty (Doctoral Poster Award Winner!)
Teri Yool - Class of 2012
Tori Bradley, MS, LAT, ATC - Class of 2012
Tyler Dexter, MS, LAT, ATC - Class of 2012
Michelle Nixon, 2011 AT Alumnus, featured on the cover of "Advance for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine."
June 26, 2012
Michelle Nixon (far right) (class of 2011) - works in the summer as an ATC for the dancers and performers at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Nancy Weir, WSU Asst. AT, Inducted into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers' Association Hall of Fame!
April 21, 2012
Left to right: Valerie Herzog, Jordan Utley, Nancy Weir, Lora Cobabe
Nancy Weir, assistant athletic trainer at Weber State University, will be inducted in to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers' Association (RMATA) Hall of Fame on Saturday during the organization's 2012 clinical symposium and business meeting in Mesa, Ariz. The RMATA includes athletic trainers in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
The hall of fame recognizes those RMATA members who have demonstrated outstanding service and dedication to the athletic training profession.
Since her arrival at Weber State in 1983, Weir has worked with all of WSU's intercollegiate sports. She is currently the athletic trainer for WSU's volleyball, softball and men's and women's golf teams. She handles medical coverage for those teams and conducts drug education programs for all athletes.
Weir is also an adjunct professor and clinical instructor in the undergraduate and graduate athletic training programs in the Jerry & Vickie Moyes College of Education. She organizes the Great American Teach-In, a program that brings student-athletes into elementary schools where they teach children about the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Providing leadership and service to her profession, she has served as secretary of the Utah Athletic Trainers' Association and volunteered at events such as the Winter Olympics, World Cup ice skating and bobsled events, the Utah Summer Games and high school basketball tournaments.
In 2009, Weir received the National Athletic Trainers' Association service award.
"I am lucky to have a job that I love," Weir said. "To have people recognize my hard work is such a prestigious honor. I am in awe of some of the people in the hall of fame, and to think that I am at the same level they are is humbling and exciting."
Weir played softball and volleyball for two years while attending Snow College. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Utah and master's degree from Western Illinois University, where she worked as a graduate assistant in the athletic training room for two years. Weir served as head athletic trainer at Snow College prior to coming to Weber State.
Weber State Clinical Instructors, Alumni, Faculty, and Student present at Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers' Association Clinical Symposium and Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona
April 21, 2012
Marie Perkins, WSU Alumni, Adjunct Faculty, and Clinical Instructor teaching kinesiotaping
BreAnne Perkes - WSU Alumni
Jeff Speckman, WSU Clinical Instructor
Jordan Hamson-Utley, WSU Faculty presenting on using iPads in Athletic Training Education
Adrian Eads, WSU Graduate Student, presenting in iPad workshop
Congratulations April 2012 Graduates!
Left to right: Tom Dewey, Craig Allen, Cole Libby, Vince Morgan, Justin Burr, Eli Kasab, Brandon Balmer, Nicole Groves, Jamie Heslop
Left to right: Andi Pigeon, Tyler Dexter, Joel Noland, Mike McMahon, Tori Bradley, Kyle Torgerson, Matt Brinkerhoff, Penny Weaver, Teri Yool, Kelli Nelson
WSU Graduate begins new job in Professional Baseball
Adrian Ramon (front left) - 2011 MSAT Graduate Head AT for the Burlington Royals Minor League Baseball Team in Burlington, NC (Affiliate of Kansas City Royals)
WSU students conduct research into concussions during Dew Tour
SNOWBASIN -- Freeskier extraordinaire and Utah resident Tom Wallisch is looking at an iPad, reading aloud a series of numbers in rapid succession.
When Weber State University graduate student Courtney Allen informs him he has earned a perfect score, Wallisch pumps a fist in mock celebration.
"And they said I was only good at skiing," Wallisch says wryly before heading back out to the slopes.
This is a common scene this year in the medical trailer at the Winter Dew Tour Toyota Championships, where a team of students from Weber State is conducting research they hope will lead to more definitive methods of diagnosing concussions in athletes of all types.
For several years, students in Weber State's sports medicine program have helped take care of athletes injured during the course of the Dew Tour, both at the winter tour stop at Snowbasin and the summer stop in Salt Lake City. About a dozen students are on hand at Snowbasin this weekend.
Valerie Herzog, associate athletic training professor and director of the Graduate Athletic Training Program at WSU, said the experience is especially valuable because injuries are much more frequent in extreme skiing and snowboarding than in sports like football or basketball.
"It's great training for them, because they have to deal with trauma in sports anyway, but you could work in football for 10 years and maybe see one cervical spine injury, one subdural hematoma, a really nasty concussion and one or two organ lacerations," Herzog said. "And (at the Dew Tour), they're going to get several of those in a four-day period."
Jordan Utley, a WSU faculty member and director of the research project, said a half-dozen athletes came in with injuries in a one-hour period Thursday.
"We only had five concussions during the entire football season," Utley said.
The current problem with diagnosing concussions, she said, is that it's subjective. Because there's no way to say for sure, on the spot, that someone has or hasn't suffered a concussion, it's up to the medical staff on the scene to make the call.
"It's frustrating for the athletes when they're told they have to stop, even if they feel like they're good to go," she said. "Since we don't know for sure, we have to err on the side of caution."
The team's quest for more accurate and rapid concussion diagnoses is two-pronged. Part of the research involes a vision-screening test in which athletes read single-digit numbers arranged in different ways on a series of charts as fast as they can. The test is designed to help identify common concussion symptoms such as blurred vision and impairment of cognitive functions.
The other part involves blood work. The researchers are looking for specific indicators, or biomarkers, in the blood that would give a definitive answer as to whether an athlete actually has a concussion. Eventually, they hope to develop a process in which an athlete could have his or her finger pricked right after a fall, and the blood would be analyzed immediately on the scene.
The Dew Tour athletes come in for an initial reading for both tests, so there will be data for comparison in case they are injured and receive another screening.
"We have to establish a baseline, because every athlete is different," Utley said. "Some have more prior injuries than others."
They have also set up video cameras at various angles along the 22-foot-high superpipe to analyze crashes and determine potential safety improvements for helmets.
The students will take what they learn throughout the competition and present their findings at conferences as part of their individual thesis projects.
While concussion might not be the most common ski and snowboard injury, it's a hot topic in sports medicine these days, said Adam Hunsaker, a graduate student in exercise science working on the project.
"I plan on being an athletic trainer for a long time, so by getting this experience now, I can use it throughout my career," Hunsaker said.
In the end, Utley said, all the work comes down to the health of the athletes.
"It's all about reducing risk and increasing awareness."
Congratulations Fall 2011 Graduates!!!
Yasuko Tanabe, Stephanie Holmes, Jennie Largent, Chris Barber, Lindzee Yates, Ryan Huber
Congratulations Spring 2011 Graduates!!!
Levi Lefevre, Michelle Nixon, Brittany Harris, Kristilyn Jeffries
Back row: Quentin Higgins, Andy Brockway, Alex Davis, Shaun Norton, Anne Morton
Front row: Yuki Sugimoto, Ryan Renkiewicz
WSU AT Students, Faculty, and ACI present at 2011 Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers' Association Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico
April 7-10, 2011
Back row: Shaun Norton, Levi Lefevre, Ryan Huber, Robbie Stagg
Front row: Yuki Sugimoto, Jamie Heslop
Undergraduate AT student, Levi Lefevre, presenting Case Report at Oral Free Communications.
Graduate Athletic Training Student, Yuki Sugimoto, presenting research findings at
Oral Free Communications.
Graduate student, Shaun Norton, and Undergraduate students, Jamie Heslop and Ryan Huber, presenting
Case Report Poster at Free Communications.
WSU Clinical Instructor, Jeff Speckman, presenting "Using a Belt for Hip Joint Mobilizations" at 2011
WSU students, Robbie Stagg, Shaun Norton, and Ryan Huber, participating in "Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Imaging of the Elbow Workshop" at the 2011 RMATA Conference.
Head Athletic Trainer, Joel Bass, receives the H. Aldous Dixon Award
March 1, 2011
Each year, the H. Aldous Dixon Award honors outstanding members of WSU's faculty and staff and the memory of President Dixon, who served Weber College during 1919-20 and 1937-53. The award is given annually to only one faculty member and one staff member.
Twenty years ago, Joel Bass came to Weber State with a purpose. At the time, WSU had only a non-accredited, internship program. Thanks in large part to Bass' vision, hard work, and determination, WSU now offers undergraduate and graduate programs in athletic training, both of which are accredited. Bass is in his 20th season as Head Athletic Trainer, working primarily with the football and men's basketball teams. Bass' resolve to safeguard the physical and emotional well-being of student athletes is relentless. As former President of the Utah Athletic Trainers' Association, Bass vigorously supported the statewide push to make sure every Utah high school has a certified athletic trainer on staff.
Part of the secret to Bass' success as Head Athletic Trainer is his hands-on involvement with students in the Athletic Training Programs. He claims it keeps him on the cutting edge of his profession. "I'm really driven by the idea that someone out there might be doing a better job than I am," Bass confesses. "It would really bother me if the coaches I worked with didn't think I was the best they could get."
OGDEN, Utah – Two Weber State University students have been invited to present at the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Annual Symposium, including one who is returning for the second consecutive year.
Undergraduate Nathan Smith and graduate student Michelle Dawson will be representing WSU at the symposium, which will be held in Philadelphia June 22-25.
Smith will present "Bipartite Sesamoid Fracture with a Partial Sesmoidectomy in a Female Collegiate Volleyball Player: A Case Report." Smith’s report focuses on a procedure to partially remove a fracture from the ball of the player’s foot along with looking at pre- and post-surgery factors.
“I am very proud of Nate for the work he has put into researching, writing and presenting the posters,” said health promotion and human performance assistant professor David Berry, Smith’s faculty advisor for both years. “It is an honor for Nate to be selected and provides recognition that he has contributed to the profession.”
Last year Smith, who graduated in December 2009, was the first Weber State University student in the athletic training program to be invited to present a case report at the symposium. He first presented a case study based on a volleyball player who had an allergic reaction to a skin adhesive after having a bone lesion removed from the top of her foot.
Graduate student Michelle Dawson also will present her master’s thesis research project, “The Effects of Imagery and Relaxation Interventions on Salivary Cortisol.” Her research used an iPod and headphones to show that sport psychology is important to athletes in dealing with the stress associated with an injury.
HPHP professor Jordan Hamson-Utley served as Dawson’s faculty advisor on this project.
“I am excited to be presenting at the national gathering,” Dawson said. “It is an honor to be presenting my research findings, which help show the connection of mind and body.”
WSU Graduate Athletic Training Program Director Valerie Herzog said these opportunities bring positive exposure not only to the students, but to the program as a whole.
“Having students present at the symposium brings great pride to everyone associated with our athletic training programs at Weber State University,” Herzog said. “It also brings national attention to the great work our students and faculty are doing.”
AT Student Presents at National Athletic Trainers' Association Annual Symposium 2 years in a Row!!!
Nate Smith has had his case study posters accepted through the NATA peer-reviewed process two years in a row! In 2009, Nate presented "Mastisol Reaction on the Dorsum of the Foot Following the Removal of an Exostosis of a Female Collegiate Volleyball Player: A Case Report" in San Antonio, Texas. In June of 2010, Nate will present "Bipartite Sesamoid Fracture with a Partial Sesmoidectomy in a Female Collegiate Volleyball Player: A Case Report." AT Faculty member, David Berry, served as Nate's advisor on both. Congratulations to Nate!
Nate Smith and David Berry in San Antonio, TX at the 2009 NATA Annual Symposium.