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Health & Well-Being Initiative

Pac-12 continues investment in Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative

Aug 16, 2022

"Pac-12 Health Equity Summit," set for January 2023 at UCLA, to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in student-athlete healthcare
2022 cycle of Pac-12-funded research projects announced, as well as final findings of previously-funded research

SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 today, as part of its continued investment in its Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative (SAHWBI), announced final findings for several funded-research projects as well as new research projects selected for funding for the 2022 grant cycle. In addition, Pac-12 SAHWBI also announced additional details for its next special event, the Pac-12 Health Equity Summit set for January 2023 at UCLA. More information, including registration, for the Pac-12 Health Equity Summit is available here.  

Created in 2013, the Pac-12 SAHWBI is a collective effort between the Pac-12 and all 12 member universities to find ways to reduce injuries, share best practices and latest studies, and conduct research aimed at continuing to improve the mental and physical health and general well-being of student-athletes.

2023 Pac-12 Health Equity Summit 

The Pac-12 Health Equity Summit, titled “Race, Gender, Identity and Accessibility Matters in Collegiate Athlete Health,” is scheduled for January 26-27, 2023 at UCLA. The two-day conference will bring together student-athletes, researchers, and clinicians from across the Pac-12 footprint in order to cultivate discussions for creating more inclusive environments for supporting the healthcare of diverse and underrepresented student-athletes, both now and in the future. The summit’s examination of healthcare delivery through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) continues the Pac-12's work to enhance the medical welfare of its diverse student-athlete population. 

As a special event, the 2023 Health Equity Summit continues the Pac-12 SAHWBI’s efforts to provide new opportunities for advancing discussions in key areas related to student-athlete health and well-being. In past years, the Pac-12 also hosted special summits focused on concussions in 2017 as well as mental health in 2020. The initiative also hosts the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Healthcare Conference annually, which returned in-person in May 2022 following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pac-12 Research Grants Program

The grants program has contributed millions of dollars in research grants for projects at Pac-12 institutions and continues to further the conference’s efforts of being at the forefront of advancements in healthcare research and technology. 

2022 Grant Cycle Awards

The SAHWBI Board approved funding for two projects in the 2022 grant cycle, including: 

Pac-12 Test of the Effectiveness of Bodies in Motion in Reducing Disordered Eating and Body Image Concerns, and Improving Psychological Well-Being, Among Male and Female Student-Athletes
Daniel Taylor, PhD; University of Arizona
Project Summary: The Bodies in Motion (BIM) program was established as an acceptable, evidence-based intervention that improved the body image and psychological well-being in a sample of primarily Caucasian, female-identifying athletes who suffered from body image and disordered eating concerns. The upcoming project aims to examine the effectiveness of BIM with a racially/ethnically diverse group of female and male-identifying athletes with body image concerns. Participants should have immediate well-being and mental health benefits from their involvement in BIM, with athletes who previously completed the program viewing what they learned in BIM as central to their successful transition out of college sports.
Determining Musculoskeletal Injury Risk and Risk Patterns Following Concussion and SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Marc Norcross, PhD; Oregon State University
Project Summary: This project aims to: 1) determine if student-athletes are at increased risk for muscular or bone-related injury following a concussion or coronavirus infection, 2) identify the specific types of injuries that they may be at increased risk of sustaining, and 3) determine when risk returns to baseline. It is believed that the completion of this study will inform best-practice recommendations that Pac-12 clinicians can use to help guide return to play decisions and minimize student-athletes’ risk of injury following a concussion or coronavirus infection.

Completed Research Announces Findings

Summaries of recently completed research projects that have been funded by the Pac-12 be found below:

Overuse Injuries/Injury Prevention: Integration of Biomechanics-based Informatics for Prevention of Stress Fractures
Michael Hahn, PhD; University of Oregon
Project Summary: This project produced IMeasureU (IMU)-derived estimates of force and contact time that were influenced by the low-pass filter cutoff frequency selected. It was discovered that optimal cutoff frequency may be determined for IMU data to produce force estimation models. It was also found that machine learning and linear regression models both accurately predict peak vertical ground reaction force, vertical impulse and contact time, using acceleration signals from a sacral-mounted IMU across running speeds. Additionally, it was observed that cumulative load – assessed as a function of steps taken and predicted ground reaction forces – can indicate when a runner may be at highest risk of stress fracture. Lastly, characterization of within-runner differences in mechanical loading can be used as a foundation for detecting changes in loading characteristics in athletes with a bone stress response.
Assessing Elite Athletes Using PROMIS Tools: The STEALTH Project (Student Athlete Health Assessment)
Kenneth Hunt, MD; University of Colorado
Project Summary: This investigation aimed to quantify the impact of a full sports season of athletic participation in athletes using multiple health domains, including physical, mental, and social health. Pilot implementation of the NIH Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) was used to assess athlete status. Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) was utilized to create an assessment routinely provided to all student-athletes (11 sports) at the University of Colorado during the pre and post-season, as well as after significant injuries were sustained. It was found that participation in athletics worsened the student-athletes’ overall health in all domains examined. It was also determined that elite athletes have higher preseason Physical Health and Social Health PROMIS scores than the average population. PROMIS Pain Interference (PI) and Physical Functioning (PF) measures are sensitive to injuries in an otherwise healthy athlete population, but a larger sample size in a future study may determine the utility of Depression and Social Health measures. Consideration should be given to index pre-season PROMIS scores for individual athletes to make real time follow-up scores athlete-specific, meaningful, and actionable.
Developing Safer Helmets Using Advanced Materials and Modeling
Christopher Yakacki, PhD; University of Colorado
Project Summary: This proposal investigated the use of advanced materials and modeling to understand the impact mechanics of football helmets. A material model was developed to represent the behavior of liquid-crystal elastomers, a highly rate-dependent and energy-absorbing material proposed for use in helmet liners. This material model was then incorporated into a validated finite-element model of a Riddell Speed Classic helmet. Impact simulations were performed using LS-DYNA and showed that the peak linear accelerations during an impact were reduced compared to the stock foam when as little as 4 to 6% of LCE material, by volume fraction, was used to replace the stock liner. A prototype helmet based on the Schutt F7 helmet was designed with a 3D printed liner with liquid-crystal elastomers embedded throughout the structure. Linear and rotational accelerations decreased from 68 to 51 g’s and 4200 to 3000 rad/sec for the side-upper impact at 9.3 m/s. Finally, an analysis tool was developed to track the normal and tangential displacements of the helmets during simulations. This allows us to explore the influence of shell displacement on linear and rotational accelerations.
Injury and Prevention: Developing a Comprehensive, Quantitative Understanding of Hip Morphometrics and Biomechanics in Collegiate Athletes at Risk for Developing Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome
Andrew Anderson, PhD; University of Utah
Project Summary: Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome is a motion-related structural hip disorder and a common cause of hip pain and dysfunction among collegiate athletes. Although the prevalence of FAI morphology is considerable, many individuals do not have symptoms. Ultimately, it is unclear which athletes are at an increased risk of developing symptoms due to a lack of understanding of the relationship between hip shape and motion. In this study, we quantified 3D shape of the femur and 3D motion of the hip in Division I athletes with no history of recurrent hip pain. Some athletes were found to possess proximal femur anatomy that resembled healthy controls, whereas others were closer in morphology to individuals with FAI syndrome. Only weak to moderate relationships were identified between hip rotational parameters and 3D descriptors of proximal femur shape during a cutting task, squat jump, and drop vertical jump. Overall, these initial results do not demonstrate a clear link between femur shape and hip motion, perhaps suggesting that modification of hip motion alone during exercises and drills may have limited efficacy in preventing the development of symptoms. Future work will consider the shape of the pelvis and full hip joint in relation to pelvis and hip motion to further aid in our understanding and prevention of FAI syndrome.

Pac-12 Student-Athlete Research and Travel Awards

Four current or former student-athletes appeared at the 2022 Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health Conference to present research projects that benefited from travel funding provided by the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Research and Travel Awards. Women’s soccer players Chloe Castaneda (UCLA) and Elisabeth Geraghty (Colorado) and cross country/track & field athletes Samantha Boyle (Washington State) and Melany Smart (Washington) conducted research with access to data provided by the Pac-12 Health Analytics Program. Primary research topics included incidence of stress fractures, tendon and bone overuse injuries, and concussion analysis across sport and non-sport activities. The student-athletes spoke positively about the opportunity to earn poster presentation experience and solicit constructive feedback from medical professionals on site at the conference.