Student research focuses on concussions

Victoria Corriston for The Newberry Observer

NEWBERRY — Are there differences between male sports and female sports when it comes to concussions? That’s what a Newberry College student wanted to find out.

Allison Davis, a junior majoring in forensic psychology, recently conducted a study of Newberry College athletes and their experiences with concussions. Concerned that so much data about concussions has focused on male sports, Davis wanted to determine if female sports have more concussions than is commonly believed. She also wanted to examine gender differences in how athletes deal with concussions, and if there are long-term concerns for female athletes.

The online survey was sent to members of Newberry’s teams in field hockey, football, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, cheerleading, and wrestling. Athletes were asked a series of questions about if they had experienced a concussion while playing college sports, the symptoms they experienced, and if they are concerned about long-term effects from concussions. Davis received responses from 82 athletes.

Davis became interested in the topic after a discussion of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in her research methods class. CTE is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive head trauma.

“It acts like Alzheimer’s or dementia, and causes a lot of mental issues,” Davis said. “It has led a lot of individuals to commit suicide.”

CTE has been found in post-mortem studies of athletes who experienced head trauma during their playing days.

Davis, who experienced a concussion during her freshman year of college, believes the perception of concussions in women’s sports is different.

“I think females get overlooked as to the amount of concussions they have,” she said. “I think females and males don’t report their concussions because they don’t want to get taken out of the game or don’t think it is bad enough. There is a broad description of what a concussion is – headache, dizziness, memory loss – and you used to have to lose consciousness for it to be considered a concussion.”

Newberry field hockey coach Hannah Dave believes the study will be informative and eye-opening. As a coach, Dave gets very concerned when her players have concussions. Dave also sees a difference in perception between men’s and women’s sports.

“Culturally throughout societies, male sports have always been coached to dominate their opponent,” Dave says. “Society made female sports non-contact, or less aggressive, because of the stigma of how women are supposed to act or behave, which is why the game of women’s lacrosse is much different than men’s, and other sports. With the evolution in athletics today, any sport that has the same expectation, dominating the opponent, can be just as aggressive in any gender sport.”

Field hockey player Megan Eisenhardt, 20, has been playing sports since the age of four. When Eisenhardt had a concussion, she experienced symptoms she describes as “the inability to focus, dizziness, in a fog, headache, unbalanced.”

As a nursing major, Eisenhardt is concerned about the long-range implications of concussions.

“Having too many can cause long-term symptoms to persist,” she said.

She added that even a single concussion can cause problems, and that athletes need to know the symptoms.

“We need to be careful and protect our brains. Concussions are very serious and definitely are not something to take lightly,” Eisenhardt said.

Davis, who is conducting the study for her capstone project, hopes to present her results at two upcoming conferences.

Victoria Corriston for The Newberry Observer

Victoria Corriston is a student at Newberry College.

Victoria Corriston is a student at Newberry College.