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Weber professors study concussions at Dew Tour


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OGDEN — Researchers at Weber State University are taking a close look at concussions and how to minimize some of the long-term damage.

Several studies have been done on concussions and football, but this may be the first time this type of research has been done on the type of action-sports you see at the Mountain Dew Tour. A team of 10 students went to Colorado to monitor athletes during the week-long event.

Professors at Weber State say participants at the tour tend to take a lot of head trauma, and a lot of it goes unchecked. The high-flying jumps can be impressive to watch, but when a snowboarder takes a fall the impact can be big.

Matthew Donahue, an associate professor in athletic training at Weber State, coordinated some of the research efforts last month in Breckinridge, Colo., using helmet-attached sensors that send data instantly to iPads.

Donahue said a number of athletes showed up to participate with broken helmets. Once the athletes showed up after an impact, they were asked a few basic questions and were told to read from left to right on the iPad as quickly as they could.

"We really wanted to look at what's causing these concussions," he said. "Can we improve on the protective gear that these athletes are using?"

Annual concussion rate by sport, 2001-2009
  • Football — 25,0376
  • Basketball — 13,987
  • Soccer — 10,436
  • Baseball — 9,634
  • Swimming — 4,557
  • Hockey — 4,427
  • Gymnastics, cheerleading and dance — 3,319
  • Softball — 2,735
  • Golf — 1,887
  • Volleyball — 1,396
  • Track and field — 449
  • Bowling — 153
Source: Centers for Disease Control

The study comes out of a collaboration with professors and medical staff at WMI, a company that treats athletes at events like the Dew Tour.

Dr. Rod Hansen, an associate professor at Weber State, was in charge of taking hundreds of blood samples. He said by looking at athletes' blood before and after injuries, "it may start to tell that story about how that damage occurs."

That may help researchers find ways to improve the recovery process.

"Neurological damage is very debilitating and expensive," Hansen said. "If we can figure out that story about how one is coming up and one is coming down, we might be able to do some intervention."

It could still be a couple of years before researchers can compile the data and draw some conclusions. And because a lot of the research has to do with how the brain deals with trauma, professors say some of their results could help in understanding diseases like Parkinson's.

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Mike Anderson

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