FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – People play sports because they love the game. The teammates you meet and the memories you create are priceless. The one thing in the athletics world that is overlooked at times is the reporting of concussions. The topic of concussions is sensitive and important, and that is why researchers at Northern Arizona University have come together to help perform innovative research efforts through the NCAA-Department of Defense Mind Matters Research Challenge.
NAU was selected as one of eight winners of the Mind Matters Research Challenge, recognized by the NCAA national office in Indianapolis. The winners, who will each receive a $400,000 award to fund their projects, are among those who answered a call from the two to submit research proposals designed to improve the understanding of how to spur changes in the culture surrounding concussion.
NAU researchers Drs. Debbie Craig, Ann Huffman, Monica Lininger, and Heidi Wayment have been awarded $400,000 for their proposal, "Changing the Culture of Concussion Reporting: A Cultural Analysis and Implementation Model." Drs. Craig and Lininger are professors in the NAU Athletic Training Education program, while Drs. Huffman and Wayment are professors in the NAU Psychological Sciences department.
"With what other athletic injury do we ask the injured body part to assess itself to determine if it's okay to keep playing?" asked Craig. "Everyone must believe that it is okay to report concussions. This will be a significant cultural shift from the current American football culture. Our goal is to find ways to facilitate that shift."
The objective of the project is to investigate the organizational, athletic, individual, and interpersonal factors that affect concussion-reporting behavior. The research is innovative through the tailored intervention strategies developed for each participating institution by researchers with key input from institutional stakeholders. The long-term goal is to better understand where, within the existing athletic culture, athletes, coaches and athletic trainers are able to make changes that increase student-athlete safety and well-being. The funded research project will be conducted over two and a half years and involve four different NCAA Division I football programs.
"I think that we have tremendous opportunity given how rapidly public awareness on head trauma and CTE is increasing," said Wayment. "As we know from research in health psychology, just "knowing" that a behavior can negatively impact one's health is not sufficient for change! I am especially excited about our interdisciplinary approach: we will be looking very specifically at multiple factors that impact athletes' decision-making processes. My colleagues and I each bring a different theoretical perspective to the research, and we are excited to be working together on this project.
The institutions receiving research grants along with NAU include Arizona State University, Colorado State University, University of Georgia, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
This is not the first time NAU has been involved in the research aspect of concussions. In 2013, NAU worked with the Mayo Clinic to test the feasibility of using a telemedicine robot to assess athletes with suspected concussions during football games as part of a research study. With sophisticated robotic technology, use of a specialized remote controlled camera system allowed patients to be "seen" by the neurology specialist, miles away, in real time.
For a complete list of honorees and their research topics please click here.