90 high schools will participate in UNC-CH head injury study

CHAPEL HILL - Among the scariest injuries in football and other sports, blows to the head can mean nothing more than a little short-lasting pain or forever change an athlete's life for the worse. For that reason, doctors, athletic trainers and coaches face a daunting task when deciding which injuries to take most seriously.

Now, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers who are trying to make sports safer soon may be able to take some of the guesswork out of how to handle head trauma. They have received two grants totaling $531,000 to support a two-year investigation of such injuries in games and practices.

The grants will come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment to fund a project involving 90 high schools in seven East Coast states and the District of Columbia. The seven are Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.

"Right now we're recruiting certified athletic trainers at all the schools," said Dr. Kevin M. Guskiewicz, assistant professor of exercise and sport science at UNC-CH and study leader. "In February, we'll begin training the athletic trainers at the various study sites on how to assess concussions using several objective measures, some of which have been developed by members of our research team."

"Some of the assessments involve tests of thinking ability, memory and concentration," Guskiewicz said. "Others involve tests of how well athletes maintain their posture and balance while standing on one foot on a device called a balance box that moves beneath them. During testing, the goal is to keep their bodies and the box as motionless as possible."

All athletes on three of each school's teams will be tested before their season begins and then again immediately after suffering a concussion during any practice or game. Tests will be given again three, 24, 48 and 72 hours aft

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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