By Kendall Gregory
The Sacred Heart University’s men’s lacrosse team and Dr. Theresa Miyashita, Program Director and Assistant Professor in the Sacred Heart Athletic Training Department, conducted a study on lacrosse head impacts. It began in the spring of 2014.
The goal of the study, which is still ongoing as dependent variables continue to be added, is to determine how head impacts affect neurocognitive function.
Bryce Jurk and Ryan O’Donoghue, both seniors on the team, believe this study will raise more awareness for head injuries that occur during lacrosse practices and games. Both Jurk and O’Donoghue have had concussions due to lacrosse.
“Everyone is getting bigger, faster and stronger, lots of people are getting hurt,” said Jurk. “I think the concussion study is interesting since it hasn’t been done for lacrosse.”
Before the season began, players took balance and vision tests. These tests were used as a baseline. Data collected during the season was then compared against the initial tests, which show how the impact from hits affects a player’s neurocognitive function. The baseline tests were also used to help determine if a player has a concussion.
The same balance and vision tests were done after the season in order to see if there was a change in the player’s balance and vision at the seasons end.
“Being a part of it was interesting,” said O’Donoghue. “You really don’t know that you are doing the study. It doesn’t affect the way you play.”
Players did not see their own results or the results of their teammates. Data was also taken during game activity.
During the season, sensors that measure head impact were placed in the player’s helmets. Dr. Miyashita analyzed the data from the sensors after every practice and game.
The sensors give the locations of where players were hit and the impact that occurred. The sensors picked up on all hits, including those coming from lacrosse sticks.
The locations of the impacts were color-coded while being analyzed. Green meant a safe hit, yellow meant warning and red meant dangerous, surpassing the force threshold.
“We were able to see that our goalkeepers are sustaining some pretty hard impacts as compared to some of the other players,” said Miyashita in a statement to Sportz Edge, an affiliate of WTNH News 8. “It depends on the player and the position, we’ve seen two to three hits, but we’ve also seen 30-40 impacts a game.”
There were a few difficulties that came up during the study. None of the difficulties impacted the results which showed change in neurocognitive function, but no major change to cause deficits.
“We are seeing a lot more research, focus and attention, [for example]boys and girls soccer, even cheerleading, because we are seeing a lot of injuries besides football players,” said Miyashita in a statement to Sportz Edge.
Yale University is now also conducting a study on concussions and head impacts as more universities realize that the study is vital to the health of athletes.
“I think a lot more people around the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and especially our conference, are more aware now,” said Jurk.
The study will help to accurately diagnose the difference between a concussion or a safe hit which will make collegiate sports safer.
“In sports people get hit all the time and don’t know if they have a concussion or not, they just play through it,” said O’Donoghue. “The sensors can help read concussions which I think will help keep the players safer.”