Projects selected for 2019 cycle of Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being grant funding
SAN FRANCISCO – The Conference today announced a series of research projects selected for funding by the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative’s grant program for the 2019-20 year. Totaling over $2.7 million in funding, the seven research projects will further broaden information and understanding surrounding important student-athlete health issues, including head trauma, mental health and injury prevention.
Created in 2013, the Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative has provided funding for research projects at its 12 member-universities for five consecutive years. The initiative is a collective effort between the Pac-12 and its member-universities to strengthen and improve the health, general well-being and safety of all student-athletes. Since its founding, the initiative has committed funding for 25 research projects at Pac-12 universities with a total investment of over $12 million.
"For the fifth consecutive year, we are thrilled to continue the important work and research taking place on our campuses," said Dr. Kimberly Harmon, chair of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Board and head football physician for the University of Washington. "With seven new projects receiving funding this cycle, this initiative continues to provide a substantive impact on the health and well-being of our student-athletes."
The grant program has made it a priority to fund cutting-edge research by pooling the collective expertise of the Pac-12 membership, which comprises some of the foremost research institutions in the world. The 25 research projects selected for funding each include a lead Pac-12 university, while the research ultimately provides a positive impact for all Pac-12 institutions. Currently, there are a number of on-going studies at each university across the Conference. The projects selected for funding this cycle (with the lead university noted) by the initiative include:
- Student Athlete Health and Well-Being: Looking at the Past to Inform the Future (Colorado)
In collecting and utilizing data from former student-athletes to inform current best practices, this study will assess longitudinal patterns of physical and psychological health while paying attention to the presence of chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, etc.) and mental health diagnoses in student-athlete alumni compared to cohort matched student non-athlete alumni. The research will also aim to build upon previous related research by assessing socioeconomic and first-generation status as group profiles, as well as modifying factors of student-athlete health following their collegiate careers. The goal of this research is not only to characterize life-course trajectories, but also to utilize this information to identify best practices, thereby creating opportunities to improve and optimize the overall health and well-being of current and future student-athletes.
- Head Trauma: Designing Safer Helmets Using Advanced Materials and Modeling (Colorado)
The University of Colorado's Boulder and Denver campuses have worked together to research football helmet design with a focus on lowering the severity of impacts and reducing the prevalence of concussions in the sport. Recently, the NFL released several computer models of helmets to investigate the influence of helmet materials and designs on head impacts. This study seeks to leverage this state-of-the-art technology and create new models to improve helmet safety using a recently developed high-performance polymer called liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs). The LCEs will be incorporated in the helmet models and virtually tested to optimize their design. This approach will allow the investigators to rapidly test and evaluate the performance of new materials in helmets, without having to manufacture and physically validate each new configuration.
- Head Trauma: The Subtypes of Concussion – Classification and Recovery Trajectories in Pac-12 Student Athletes (Stanford)
The goal for this study is to advance the science of concussion care and change how concussions are diagnosed and managed, allowing for earlier and more focused rehabilitation and treatments. By performing clinical research, this study will look to characterize and compare concussion subtypes over time and by gender, sport, school and medical history, including cardiovascular health, while also assessing recovery trajectories by concussion subtypes over a six-month span to allow for anticipated outcomes and targeted-treatment options.
- Overuse Injuries/Injury Protection: Biomechanical metrics to improve performance and reduce elbow injuries in baseball (USC)
A common problem among baseball players is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) at the elbow. The UCL provides ~50% counter to elbow force (varus torque) during pitching, putting the UCL at risk for injury. Elbow varus torque increases as ball velocity increases, but not for all pitchers. Elbow varus torque may be mediated by player physical factors, such as muscle performance, joint motion, and stability. The knowledge gap is understanding the ball velocity - elbow varus torque relationship, and how physical factors can mediate the relationship to reduce elbow varus torque. This study will aim to characterize player risk of UCL injuries by developing player profiles that can be used to: 1) target the identified physical factors to reduce injuries and inform rehabilitation after injury, 2) specify return to sport criteria and 3) guide performance enhancement.
- Head Trauma: Reactive Postural Responses after Concussion: Objective Measurement of Balance Recovery and Prospective Injury Risk (Utah)
Reactive postural responses are used to recover balance, but they have received relatively little attention after concussion despite being common in athletics and critical to athlete safety and performance. Prior research has shown previously concussed athletes experience a greater risk of musculoskeletal injuries, but the cause of this increased risk is not known. This study will focus on a critical barrier of current balance assessments for concussion by objectively quantifying reactive postural responses to determine the connection between post-concussion postural control and musculoskeletal injuries. This project seeks to have immediate impact on concussion management by establishing a protocol to assess postural responses that is tailored for concussions and clinical use and can be rapidly implemented through the Pac-12. Long-term, this study seeks to provide the framework for future studies to examine rehabilitative approaches that train balance recovery to accelerate the recovery and/or decrease the risk of musculoskeletal injury following concussions.
- Injury Prevention: Improving Rehabilitation Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Repair with Real-Time Feedback during Low Intensity Cycling (Utah)
With an astounding 25% of athletes with previous anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery developing additional ACL injury following surgery, this study aims to reduce compensatory patterns during movement exercises while evaluating the relationship between cycling symmetry and return-to-play outcomes. Of concern, current data indicates that these patterns progress, rather than diminish, during the course of rehabilitation and can go undetected due to maximal tests typically taking place several months following surgery. Low-intensity cycling is commonly prescribed and known to be safe soon after surgery. This project seeks to improve symmetry by providing biomechanical feedback during low-intensity cycling. It also aims to determine if cycling symmetry leads to improved symmetry during weight bearing tasks and reduces subsequent injuries. If successful, we believe this technique may improve rehabilitation of a variety of other leg injuries as well.
- Student-Athlete Well-Being: Social Media Engagement and Mental Health in Pac-12 Student-Athletes (Washington State)
By investigating the relationship between social media activity, self-perception and mental health among Pac-12 student-athletes, this project seeks to gain a better understanding of both the detrimental and positive aspects of student-athletes’ social media use, as well as the potential benefits of protective behavioral strategies involving social media (e.g., turning off electronic devices at night or restricting social media access during study time). The findings will seek to provide improved abilities to educate student-athletes on adaptive uses of social media and bolster their academic, mental health, physical and personal well-being.
Requests for proposal for the 2020 funding cycle of the grant program will be released by July 1, 2019 and will be found at Pac-12.com/conference/sahwbgp. Letters of Intent for the 2020cycle are due October 1, 2019. Questions may be sent to email@example.com and more information on the Pac-12’s Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative can be found at Pac-12.com/conference/sahwbgp.
About the Pac-12 Conference
The Conference has a tradition as the “Conference of Champions,” leading the nation in NCAA Championships in 52 of the last 58 years, with 520 NCAA team titles overall. The Conference comprises 12 leading U.S. universities - the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Colorado, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Utah, the University of Washington and Washington State University. For more information on the Conference’s programs, member institutions, and Commissioner Larry Scott, go to Pac-12.com/conference.
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