Safeguarding athletes’ brains

For Immediate Release:  Aug. 21, 2015

BLOOMSBURG — One of the hot-button topics in athletics today, at the youth, high school, collegiate and professional levels, is the matter of concussions and their affect on the brain.

How quickly an athlete returns to competition is unique to each individual. But to accurately know when an athlete is healthy enough to return to competition requires a baseline starting point. That’s where Bloomsburg University’s new Institute for Concussion Research and Services comes into play. The institute is a collaboration between interdisciplinary faculty and students working to better understand concussions.

Under the direction of Joseph Hazzard, assistant professor of exercise science, the institute has two main goals: to give medical professionals a better understanding of concussions, symptoms and their outcomes, and to provide a service to the medical community that will assist them in making better “return-to-play” decisions.

“Our two-part testing system is unique to Bloomsburg University,” said Hazzard. “We have a special virtual reality system from Head Rehab Inc. that will test memory, reaction time and balance. We also have a clinical balance assessment instrument from Natus/Neurocom with components based in assessment of three systems: the visual, vestibular or inner ear, and somatosensory or neuromuscular feedback.

“An athlete would need to return to baseline on both of these tests before being allowed to safely return to competition. Having the baseline data on each of the athletes at the start will be how they will be measured.”

Both units are portable, giving Hazzard and his team the ability to travel to the athletes. Testing time for each athlete is approximately 20 minutes.

“Right now we are working with the Berwick High School football team and head coach George Curry. We tested some of his players — sophomores, juniors and seniors — before official practice began on Aug. 17,” Hazzard continued. “We will also be testing players from Danville Area High School, along with athletes from Bloomsburg University.”

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 10,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.